While he voted with the bench's conservatives on campaign finance and, earlier this week, to uphold Trump's travel ban, Kennedy also sided with the Court's liberal justices on issues such as abortion rights, climate change and authoring the majority opinion to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015.
Matthews was opining about the announcement from Kennedy that he would be retiring in July from his seat at the Supreme Court, making way for President Donald Trump to nominate a replacement. But in a concurrence, Kennedy admonished Trump's tone as against the spirit - if not the letter - of the Constitutional ban on religious discrimination.
He said his decision to step aside was based on his deep desire to spend more time with his family. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked the nuclear option, lowering the threshold from the super majority of 60 votes that is normally required for confirmation to a simple majority. Both conservative and liberal interest groups are poised to press the fight.
"It would mean we have a new legal order", said Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston who closely follows the court.
Kennedy called it the "highest of honors to serve on this Court", and he expressed his "profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret, and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises". The search, the president said, will begin immediately, and Kennedy's replacement will be chosen from the list of 25 candidates he considered previous year, when he ultimately chose Gorsuch.
Democrats were left irate in 2016, after a Republican-majority Senate refused to vote on Barack Obama's 2016 nominee Merrick Garland.
His retirement could put some of his signature rulings in jeopardy such as the 1973 court ruling in Roe v. Wade, writes Scott Lemieux. Kirsten Gillibrand of NY wrote Tuesday on Twitter. Democrats are looking to sway a couple of Republican senators to stymie the process.
McConnell changed rules for filibusters on Supreme Court justices past year to overcome Democratic opposition and confirm Trump's first appointment, Justice Neil Gorsuch. "Let's watch McConnell now-I'm telling you, they have no right to bring this up after what they did in '16".
There are only nine justices, who only get replaced if they retire or die, so who sits on it really matters.
Trump also told the crowd that his SCOTUS pick would sit on the high court for 40 to 45 years. If the Senate divides 50-50, Vice President Mike Pence could break a tie to confirm the nominee.
The confirmation machinery would gear up quickly.
"I don't want to be alone right now", Colbert began.
Good morning. From the re-shaping of the Supreme Court to the latest in the investigation into Manafort's ties with Russian Federation, catch up with the Morning Briefing. "No question about it", McConnell said. That simple-majority rule remains in place for subsequent nominees.
"One is whether the president has an authority to say that there are countries that whose visa vetting systems we don't trust and therefore we're not going to allow people to come in, and another whether it's a good idea".