DNC members groan when hearing news of Kennedy’s retirement

Members of the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday were heard groaning and saying, “Oh, my God,” when their meeting was broken up with news of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

Politico reported-- citing an audio recording-- that the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee was interrupted by the news alert that was followed with one person saying, “This is not good news.”

Without Kennedy, 81-- who is often seen as a voice of moderation over three decades-- the court will be split between four liberal justices and four conservatives, and the next President Trump pick.

Several former law clerks have said that Kennedy, a nominee of President Ronald Reagan, preferred to be replaced by a Republican. If he had waited, and if Democrats had taken control of the Senate in November, Trump could have found it more difficult to get his choice confirmed.

The retirement of Kennedy—whose votes have decided issues on abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, guns, campaign finance and voting rights—gives President Trump an opportunity to tip the balance in the conservatives’ favor.

The New York Times editorial board called Kennedy's decision “crushing.”

"It is a dark moment in the history of the court and the nation, and it’s about to get a lot darker."

— The New York Times editorial board

"It is a dark moment in the history of the court and the nation, and it’s about to get a lot darker," the editorial wrote.

Trump said he would start the effort to replace Kennedy “immediately" and would pick from a list of 25 names that he updated last year.

"It's a game changer," said Republican strategist Chris Wilson. "There's no piece of legislation, no executive order, no Supreme Court decision that would have created the level of motivation that an empty seat does."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.