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Four More Years: President Obama Re-elected for second term

The president rolled to a second term over Romney, winning more than 300 electoral votes. Obama told supporters “the best is yet to come.” WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says the American people have “picked ourselves up” and fought back during tough economic times, declaring after winning re-election that the “best is yet to come.”…

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The president rolled to a second term over Romney, winning more than 300 electoral votes. Obama told supporters “the best is yet to come.”

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says the American people have “picked ourselves up” and fought back during tough economic times, declaring after winning re-election that the “best is yet to come.”Obama says he wants to meet with Republican rival Mitt Romney to discuss how they can work together. He says they may have “battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply.”

The president rolled to a second term over Romney, winning more than 300 electoral votes. Only one state’s electoral votes hadn’t been called by The Associated Press as of early Wednesday morning. In Florida, Obama has a 46,000-vote lead, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. But Florida historically has left as many as 5 percent of its votes uncounted until after Election Day, making the race too close to call until state officials complete their count, the AP said.

In victory, Obama spoke to thousands of cheering supporters, praising Romney and promising that better days are ahead. “While our road has been hard, though our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up. We have fought our way back and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come,” he said.

Romney made a graceful concession speech before a disappointed crowd in Boston. He summoned all Americans to pray for Obama and urged the night’s political winners to put partisan bickering aside and “reach across the aisle” to tackle the nation’s problems. Romney said earlier he called Obama to congratulate him on his victory, adding that he prays “the president will be successful in guiding our nation.”

Obama triumphed despite a weak economy that plagued his first term and put a crimp in the middle class dreams of millions.

After the costliest – and arguably the nastiest – campaign in history, divided government seemed alive and well. Democrats retained control of the Senate with surprising ease. Republicans did the same in the House, making it likely that Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Obama’s partner in unsuccessful deficit talks, would reclaim his seat at the bargaining table.

At Obama headquarters in Chicago, a huge crowd gathered waving small American flags and cheering. Supporters hugged each other, danced and pumped their fists in the air. Excited crowds also gathered in New York’s Times Square, at Faneuil Hall in Boston and near the White House in Washington, drivers joyfully honking as they passed by.

With votes counted in 75 percent of the nation’s precincts, Obama held a narrow advantage in the popular vote, leading by about 25,000 out of more than 99 million cast.

But the president’s laserlike focus on the battleground states allowed him to run up a 303-206 margin in the competition for electoral votes, where the White House is won or lost. It took 270 to win. Obama captured Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada, seven of the nine states where the rivals and their allies poured nearly $1 billion into dueling television commercials.

Romney won only North Carolina among the battleground states. Four years ago, Obama had carried the state.

Florida remained too close to call, a state where long lines of voters kept the polls open in some areas well past the appointed poll close time.

Here’s how it shaped up for the candidates.

Barack Obama won: Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, Wisconsin, Oregon, Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, California, Hawaii, Washington, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Vermont, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Illinois .

Mitt Romney won: Montana, Alaska, Alabama, Missouri, Idaho, North Carolina, Arizona, Utah, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Kentucky,  West Virginia, South Carolina, Indiana,  Oklahoma, Tennessee and Georgia.

The election emerged as a choice between two very different visions of government – whether it occupies a major, front-row place in American lives or is in the background as a less-obtrusive facilitator for private enterprise and entrepreneurship.

The economy was rated the top issue by about 60 percent of voters surveyed as they left their polling places. But more said former President George W. Bush bore responsibility for current circumstances than Obama did after nearly four years in office. That bode well for the president, who had worked to turn the election into a choice between his proposals and Romney’s, rather than the simple referendum on the economy during his time in the White House.

Unemployment stood at 7.9 percent on election day, higher than when he took office. And despite signs of progress, the economy is still struggling after the worst recession in history.

About 4 in 10 said the economy is on the mend, but more than that said it was stagnant or getting worse more than four years after the near-collapse of 2008. The survey was conducted for The Associated Press and a group of television networks.

OTHER RACES

Democrats held their narrow majority in the Senate on Tuesday, with 53 seats, grabbing GOP seats in Massachusetts and Indiana and turning aside Republican challenges in Virginia and Ohio. Republicans regained control of the House — 232 seats to the Democrats’ 191 seats — ensuring that Congress will be divided at the start of President Barack Obama’s second term in office.

Democrat Elizabeth Warren won in Massachusetts over Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who stunned the political world in January 2010 when he won Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s seat. Democrat Joe Donnelly won Indiana’s Senate seat in a close-fought battle with tea-party backed state treasurer Richard Mourdock. Mourdock had been considered the favorite after knocking out six-term Sen. Richard Lugar in the GOP primary in May. But he damaged his chances when he said in a debate that pregnancy resulting from rape is “something God intended.”

In Ohio, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown survived an onslaught of outside spending, some $30 million, to defeat state treasurer Josh Mandel. In Pennsylvania, Democratic Sen. Bob Casey survived a late scare from businessman Tom Smith, who invested more than $17 million of his own money in the race.

Texas sent Tea Party-backed Ted Cruz to the Senate as the Republican won the seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Cruz will become the third Hispanic in the Senate, joining Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

In Florida, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson triumphed in his bid for a third term, holding off a challenge from Republican Rep. Connie Mack. Republican groups had spent heavily against Nelson early in the race, but the moderate Democrat was a prolific fundraiser with wide appeal among Democrats and some Republicans in the Panhandle.

In West Virginia, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin won a full term even though his state went heavily for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Tennesseans gave Republican Sen. Bob Corker a second term. Wyoming voters did the same for Sen. John Barrasso, and Republican Roger Wicker captured another term in Mississippi.

North Carolina voters elected their first Republican governor in two decades Tuesday, fanning the GOP’s hope of broadening their party’s hold on governor’s mansions across the country. The victory by former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory came two years after Republicans snatched six governors’ offices in the midterm elections, giving the party 29 governorships to 20 for Democrats and one independent entering the elections in which 11 gubernatorial races were to be decided.

When all the ballots are counted, Republicans could have as many as 33 governorships – the most since the 1920s and one more than they had in the 1990s.

Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy, a Democrat, won a Connecticut seat long held by Sen. Joe Lieberman, retiring after a career that included a vice presidential spot on Al Gore’s ticket in 2000. It was Republican Linda McMahon’s second defeat in two tries, at a personal cost of $92 million.

Former Gov. Angus King won the Senate race in Maine, running as an independent. King will take over the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. Another independent, Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders, also has been re-elected.

Incumbent Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D) gained enough votes to win a second term.

VOTERS CAME IN DROVES

The long campaign’s cost soared into the billions, much of it spent on negative ads, some harshly so.

In the presidential race, an estimated one million commercials aired in nine battleground states where the rival camps agreed the election was most likely to be settled — Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.

In a months-long general election ad war that cost nearly $1 billion, Romney and Republican groups spent more than $550 million and Obama and his allies $381 million, according to organizations that track advertising.

In Virginia, the polls had been closed for several minutes when Obama’s campaign texted a call for volunteers “to make sure everyone who’s still in line gets to vote.”

In Florida, there were long lines at the hour set for polls to close. Under state law, everyone waiting was entitled to cast a ballot.

In a campaign that traversed contested Republican primaries last winter and spring, a pair of political conventions this summer and three presidential debates, Obama, Romney, Biden and Ryan spoke at hundreds of rallies, were serenaded by Bruce Springstein and Meat Loaf and washed down hamburgers, pizza, barbecue and burrito bowls.

Obama was elected the first black president in 2008, and four years later, Romney became the first Mormon to appear on a general election ballot. Yet one man’s race and the other’s religion were never major factors in this year’s campaign for the White House, a race dominated from the outset by the economy.

Over and over, Obama said that during his term the nation has begun to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. While he conceded progress has been slow, he accused Romney of offering recycled Republican policies that have helped the wealthy and harmed the middle class in the past and would do so again.Romney countered that a second Obama term could mean a repeat recession in a country where economic growth has been weak and unemployment is worse now than when the president was inaugurated. A wealthy former businessman, he claimed the knowledge and the skills to put in place policies that would make the economy healthy again.

In a race where the two men disagreed often, one of the principal fault lines was over taxes. Obama campaigned for the renewal of income tax cuts set to expire on Dec. 31 at all income levels except above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

Romney said no one’s taxes should go up in uncertain economic times. In addition, he proposed a 20 percent cut across the board in income tax rates but said he would end or curtail a variety of tax breaks to make sure federal deficits didn’t rise.

The differences over taxes, the economy, Medicare, abortion and more were expressed in intensely negative advertising.

Obama launched first, shortly after Romney dispatched his Republican foes in his quest for the party nomination.

One memorable commercial showed Romney singing an off-key rendition of “America The Beautiful.” Pictures and signs scrolled by saying that his companies had shipped jobs to Mexico and China, that Massachusetts state jobs had gone to India while he was governor and that he has personal investments in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Romney spent less on advertising than Obama. A collection of outside groups made up the difference, some of them operating under rules that allowed donors to remain anonymous. Most of the ads were of the attack variety. But the Republican National Committee relied on one that had a far softer touch, and seemed aimed at voters who had been drawn to the excitement caused by Obama’s first campaign. It referred to a growing national debt and unemployment, then said, “He tried. You tried. It’s OK to make a change.”

More than 30 million voters cast early ballots in nearly three dozen states, a reflection of the growing appeal of getting a jump on the traditional Election Day.

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Key House committee passes Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sweeping drug pricing bill

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday approved Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s sweeping drug pricing bill, a key step in getting the legislation to the full House floor for a vote later this year.

The bill passed on a vote of 30 to 22 on Thursday evening.

The main thrust of Pelosi’s bill will allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices on as many as 250 of the most expensive drugs per year and apply those discounts to private health plans across the U.S. The bill also includes a penalty on drug makers that refuse to negotiate or fail to reach an agreement with the U.S. government, starting at 65% of the gross sales of the drug in question.

Republican members on the committee expressed concerns with the legislation, particularly that it would discourage innovation for new medicines in the pharmaceutical industry. Some GOP members said the legislation was rushed and dead on arrival in the Senate.

“I don’t believe that I was elected to write bills that would never go anywhere,” said Michael Burgess of Texas, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s health panel. “And that’s exactly where this bill is headed.”

Prior to the vote Thursday, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr, D-NJ, introduced changes to the bill, which included a price cap for new negotiated drugs until there are at least two or more generic competitors. It also increases the minimum number of drugs Medicare must negotiate from 25 to 35, which would be phased in.

The legislation will need to move through other committees before it can go to the full House floor for a vote. Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders, who had been working on the plan for months, are working to get it through committees to the floor as soon as the end of this month. The House Education and Labor Committee approved the bill Thursday on a party-line vote.

Late Friday, a preliminary analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showed Pelosi’s plan would save Medicare $345 billion over 10 years. Those savings wouldn’t begin until 2023, assuming the bill gets passed by both the House and Senate and signed by Trump before the end of this year. The greatest savings would come in 2028 at $93 billion, the CBO said.

High prescription drug costs have become a rare bipartisan issue, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demanding changes. Congress and the Trump administration are trying to pass legislation before the end of the year that would bring more transparency to health-care costs and, ultimately, lower costs for consumers. Health care remains a top issue for voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa is also currently working to rally support for a Senate drug pricing bill backed by Trump.

That plan, which lawmakers have described as a “middle ground” approach to handling drug prices, would also make changes to Medicare and includes a penalty for pharmaceutical companies that raise drug prices faster than inflation.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, called PhRMA, the industry’s main trade group, opposes both Pelosi’s and Grassley’s plans. The group says Pelosi’s bill gives “the federal government unprecedented, sweeping authority to set medicine prices in public and private markets while importing price controls from other countries that restrict access to innovative medicines.”

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Elijah Cummings, Baltimore congressman and civil rights leader, dies at 68

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U.S. Representative Elijah E. Cummings, a Democratic congressman from Maryland who gained national attention for his principled stands on politically charged issues in the House, his calming effect on anti-police riots in Baltimore, and his forceful opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump, died Oct. 17 at a hospice center in Baltimore. He was 68.
The cause was “complications concerning long-standing health challenges,” his office said in a statement. Mr. Cummings was chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a leading figure in the Trump impeachment inquiry and had been out of his office for weeks while recovering from an unspecified medical procedure.

Born to a family of Southern sharecroppers and Baptist preachers, Mr. Cummings grew up in the racially fractured Baltimore of the 1950s and 1960s. At 11, he helped integrate a local swimming pool while being attacked with bottles and rocks. “Perry Mason,” the popular TV series about a fictional defense lawyer, inspired him to enter the legal profession.

Many young men in my neighborhood were going to reform school,” he told the East Texas Review. “Though I didn’t completely know what reform school was, I knew that Perry Mason won a lot of cases. I also thought that these young men probably needed lawyers.”

‘It was like a gut punch’: Reactions pour in after Cummings’s death

Following the news of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings’s (D-Md.) death on Oct. 17, politicians, television hosts and community leaders paid tribute to the civil rights leader.
In the Maryland House of Delegates, he became the youngest chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and the first African American to serve as speaker pro tem, the member who presides in the speaker’s absence.
In 1996, he won the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that Kweisi Mfume (D) vacated to become NAACP president. Mr. Cummings eventually served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and as ranking Democrat and then chairman of what became the House Oversight and Reform Committee. 

‘A giant of integrity and knowledge has fallen’: Congress reacts to the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings
He drew national attention as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief defender during 2015 congressional hearings into her handling of the attack three years earlier on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The attack killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
He was “the quintessential speaking-truth-to-power representative,” said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. “Cummings has never shied from a very forceful give-and-take.”
Baltimore’s plight informed Mr. Cummings’s life and work on Capitol Hill, a connection exemplified by his response to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in April 2015 and the explosion of outrage that came after it.

Gray died of injuries suffered while riding, improperly secured, in a police van after he was arrested for carrying a knife, in his pocket, that police said was illegal. His death ignited rioting in Baltimore and elevated tensions nationally over perceived racism and excessive violence in law enforcement.
Speaking at the funeral, Mr. Cummings, who lived near where Gray was arrested, bemoaned the presence of media to chronicle Gray’s death without celebrating his life.

“Did you see him? Did you see him?” Mr. Cummings asked in his booming baritone. The church exploded with applause, and civil rights activist Jesse L. Jackson sat, rapt, behind him. “Did you see him?” 
“I’ve often said, our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see,” he said, his voice rising. “But now our children are sending us to a future they will never see! There’s something wrong with that picture!”
When looting began, hours after the funeral, Mr. Cummings rushed, bullhorn in hand, to a troubled West Baltimore neighborhood, where he worked to restore order and to assure residents that authorities were taking the case seriously. (Six officers would be charged in Gray’s death, although prosecutors failed to secure a conviction against any of them.)
Amid the unrest, he and a dozen other residents marched, arm in arm, through the streets, singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

Mr. Cummings was known for showing the same kind of commitment in the House. The bullhorn he wielded in West Baltimore was emblazoned with a gold label that read, “The gentleman will not yield.” It was a gift from his Democratic colleagues, bestowed after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) silenced Mr. Cummings’s microphone at a 2014 hearing into complaints that the Internal Revenue Service had unfairly targeted conservative nonprofit groups.
The next year, while serving on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, he sparred with Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) during hearings Republicans convened to examine Clinton’s role in the Benghazi debacle.
When Gowdy interrogated Clinton about Libya-related emails sent from a longtime confidant of hers, Sidney Blumenthal, Mr. Cummings interjected: “Gentleman, yield! Gentleman, yield! You have made several inaccurate statements.”

Talking to reporters in the hallway later, Mr. Cummings said his primary purpose was not to defend Clinton but to seek “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
“Let the world see it,” he said. The experience didn’t appear to sour Gowdy on Mr. Cummings.
“It’s not about politics to him; he says what he believes,” Gowdy told the Hill newspaper. “And you can tell the ones who are saying it because it was in a memo they got that morning, and you can tell the ones who it’s coming from their soul. And with Mr. Cummings, it’s coming from his soul.”

Cummings Dealing With Trump

Cummings defends unleashing subpoenas over Trump security clearances
House Oversight chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) urged Congress April 2 to support issuing subpoenas over Trump administration security clearances.  The first two years of the Trump administration, 2017 and 2018, were agonizing for Mr. Cummings, who was battling ill health, including complications of heart surgery, as well as political frustration.
Mr. Cummings said his efforts to work with Trump and members the GOP majority in the House were fruitless. He said that at the luncheon after Trump’s inauguration and during other encounters, he urged the president to pursue policies that could unite the country and burnish his legacy. The congressman said that after a few promising meetings, he stopped hearing from Trump. 

“Perhaps if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have had a lot of hope,” Mr. Cummings later remarked. “He is a man who quite often calls the truth a lie and calls a lie the truth.”
As ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Mr. Cummings became a leading voice against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a change that critics contended would discourage participation by documented and undocumented immigrants alike.
He was also a forceful opponent of an immigration policy that separated thousands of children from their parents after they illegally crossed the southern U.S. border. He described the Trump White House as inhumane in its use of “child internment camps.”

In turn, the president went on a Twitter tirade against Mr. Cummings and described his majority black Baltimore district as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and suggested the congressman focus his efforts on cleaning up “this very dangerous & filthy place.”
Mr. Cummings’ response was not to dignify the attack, instead telling an audience at the National Press Club in Washington: “Those at the highest levels of government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior. As a country, we finally must say that enough is enough. That we are done with the hateful rhetoric.”

After Democrats won control of the House in the November 2018 midterm elections, Mr. Cummings was elevated to chairman of the Oversight Committee, a position that he used to spearhead probes into security clearances issued by the White House over the objections of career officials and payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
Mr. Cummings had a combative streak, but he was adept at calming volatile situations, such as the sharp exchange between Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) during a hearing in February 2019.
The Oversight Committee was taking testimony from Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, and Tlaib accused Meadows of pulling a “racist” stunt by having a black woman, an administration employee, stand behind him. Meadows demanded that her words be stricken from the record.
Mr. Cummings called Meadows “one of my best friends” and prompted Tlaib to say that she was not calling Meadows a racist. By the next day, the conservative Meadows and liberal freshman Tlaib were hugging in public.
“Interaction, man,” Mr. Cummings said by way of explanation. “Human interaction, that’s all.”
‘Not my Baltimore’: In Cummings’s district, a rich tapestry of problems and gems.

Lawyer and lawmaker

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) addresses a National Press Club luncheon on his “committee’s investigations into President Donald Trump and his administration,” in August 7. Cummings died early Thursday at the age of 68.
Elijah Eugene Cummings was born in Baltimore on Jan. 18, 1951. His father worked at a chemical factory, his mother at a pickle factory and later as a maid while raising seven children. Both parents came from sharecropping families in South Carolina. Although they struggled to feed their family, his parents would can apples and peaches and give half the preserves to people in need.
The proprietor of a Baltimore drugstore where Mr. Cummings worked paid his application fee to Howard University and, during Mr. Cummings’s time as a Howard student, regularly sent him $10 with a note that read, “Hang in there.”
At Howard, he served as student government president, and he received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1973. He received a law degree from the University of Maryland three years later and practiced law, mostly in private practice, for nearly two decades.
He also helped law students develop their oral and writing skills as chief judge on the Maryland Moot Court, a competition in which students submit briefs and present oral arguments in a hypothetical appellate case.
In the Maryland House of Delegates, where Mr. Cummings served from 1983 to 1996, he championed a ban on alcohol and tobacco ads on inner-city billboards in Baltimore — the first prohibition of its kind in a major U.S. city.
On Capitol Hill, Mr. Cummings was among the minority of House members and senators who voted in 2002 against authorizing a military invasion of Iraq. President George W. Bush’s administration, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was alleging that Iraq continued to possess and develop weapons of mass destruction. 

Mr. Cummings said there was not sufficient evidence of such weapons to “send our young people off to war and thereby place their lives in harm’s way,” an opinion supported by subsequent investigations.
Also in 2002, Mr. Cummings was elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, a position he used to push for increased funding for public education and the Head Start program.

His first marriage, to Joyce Matthews, ended in divorce after a long separation. In 2008, he married Maya Rockeymoore, a policy consultant and chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.
In the mid-1990s, he had financial difficulties. He was sued by creditors and owed $30,000 in federal taxes, which he eventually paid. He told the Baltimore Sun that during his time as a congressman, he endured two winters without heat because he could not afford to fix his furnace.
He has said the money problems stemmed from his struggles to keep his law practice afloat while running for Congress and also from helping to support his three children. “I have a moral conscience that is real central,” he told the newspaper. “I didn’t ask the federal government or anyone else to do me any favors.”

Mr. Cummings said he considered running to succeed Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), who did not seek reelection in 2016, but decided that he was needed in Baltimore to help the riot-torn city. 
A member of New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, Mr. Cummings said he was driven by his faith and secure in his conviction that history would recognize his resolve to stand up for what he believed was right.
“In the city of Baltimore, there are over a thousand monuments, and not one monument is erected to memorialize a critic,” he once said in a speech. “Every one of the monuments is erected to memorialize one who was severely criticized.”

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Justice Kennedy, the pivotal swing vote on the Supreme Court, announces retirement

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Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced Wednesday that he is retiring from the Supreme Court, a move that gives President Trump the chance to replace the court’s pivotal justice and dramatically shift the institution to the right, setting up a bitter partisan showdown on Kennedy’s successor.

“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court,” Kennedy, who is stepping down July 31, said in a statement.

Kennedy, 81, joined the court in 1988 and has been its most important member for more than a decade. The Californian, who was chosen by President Ronald Reagan, has cast the deciding vote on the court’s controversial Citizens United campaign finance decision, the constitutional right to same-sex marriage and the continued viability of affirmative action.

On almost every major issue that has faced the court in recent years, neither the court’s liberal, Democratic-appointed justices nor Kennedy’s fellow ­Republican-appointed conservative colleagues could prevail without his swing vote.

His decision likely will make Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. the central justice on the nine-member court. Roberts, 63, has shown himself to be well to the right of Kennedy.

Washington could be in for an epic battle over Kennedy’s replacement. While Senate Democrats lack the numbers to deny the seat to whoever Trump chooses, they will ratchet up the stakes of the choice.

It will be the first time since Justice Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall more than 25 years ago that a new justice could radically change the direction of the court. Since then, new members added to the court have replaced justices of the same general ideology.

Kennedy is a courtly presence on the court, with a gentlemanly demeanor and a jurisprudence based on the respect the Constitution provides for individual liberty and dignity.

He was a compromise choice for Reagan, who had first nominated the more controversial conservative Judge Robert Bork for the position. The Senate voted him down.

Kennedy has been a disappointment to the right, which has been unable to forgive his vote to uphold the basic underpinnings of Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to choose an abortion. And Kennedy has written each of the court’s major gay rights decision, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which said the Constitution requires that gay couples be allowed to marry.

Liberals came to value Kennedy because he was the best they could hope for. But Kennedy most often votes with the court’s conservatives: He is further to the right on law-and-order issues than Justice Antonin Scalia was, he is comfortable with the court’s protective view of business, and he shared the losing view that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

His belief that campaign finance regulation often violates free speech was exemplified in his authorship of the opinion in Citizens United, which has opened the door for an explosion of big money in elections.

Whoever Trump nominated to fill Kennedy’s seat will likely share those views, but not his liberal opinions on social issues.

Trump convinced evangelicals and other conservatives to support him based on the next president’s ability to shape the Supreme Court, a promise he has already begun to fulfill. Early in his term, he successfully place conservative Neil M. Gorsuch on the bench, and he could have the chance to fill more openings.

Of the court’s four liberals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 and Justice Stephen G. Breyer turns 80 this summer.

Gorsuch’s appointment returned the court to the status quo that existed before Scalia died. But a court without Kennedy would be a different place.

With Kennedy on board, a five-member majority struck down a Texas law that it said used protecting women as a pretext for making abortion unavailable, and the court continued a limited endorsement of affirmative action.

Many if not all of those holdings would be at risk in a court with five consistent conservatives, the oldest being 69-year-old Justice Clarence Thomas.

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