There is nothing like a good sibling rivalry to spice up the debate over whom President Trump will nominate to be the next Supreme Court justice.
Shortly after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced on Wednesday that he was retiring from the Supreme Court, Trump said he would be choosing the Reagan appointee’s replacement from a list of 25 candidates the White House released last November. Iincluded on that list were the Lee brothers.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and his brother, Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Lee, have both made Trump’s list to replace Kennedy in Washington – setting up a sibling showdown over who could get the nod to serve on the highest court in the land.
“My brother is a terrific jurist,” Sen. Lee said of his older brother during an interview on “Fox and Friends,” before adding, “I’d also really enjoy the opportunity to grill him as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
The Utah lawmaker also noted that as a member of the Senate, he could theoretically vote for himself when it came to confirming the next Supreme Court justice.
“My understanding is that that is what the Senate rules allow and you’re still a senator until you’re no longer a senator,” the younger Lee said. “You’re still a senator at the moment you’re being considered for something like that.”
Both Lee brothers have spent much of their life around the Supreme Court.
Thomas Lee, who has served as a justice on Utah’s Supreme Court since 2010, is a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Mike Lee, known for his staunch conservativism, told “Fox and Friends” that he has been watching Supreme Court arguments since he was 10 “for fun.”
“I started at that age watching Supreme Court arguments just for fun, going with dad to the court," he said, "and so I’m honored just to be considered.”
The Lee brothers are the sons of President Ronald Reagan's solicitor general, Rex Lee, who argued 59 cases before the Supreme Court. The brothers also spent much of their childhood in Washington D.C.
While his brother has remained mum since it was announced that he was being considered to replace Kennedy, Mike Lee told Shannon Bream on “Fox News @ Night” that he “would certainly not say no” if Trump nominated him to the post.
The senator has also already earned the backing of at least one of his colleagues on Capitol Hill.
Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told Fox News’ Dana Perino that his counterpart from Utah would be the “best choice” to fill the Supreme Court vancancy.
"I think the single best choice President Trump could make to fill this vacancy is Sen. Mike Lee," Cruz said on Fox News shortly after Kennedy's announcement. "I think he would be extraordinary."
The president said on Wednesday that he would start the effort to replace Kennedy "immediately" and would pick from the list of 25 names that he updated last year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the Senate "will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy's successor this fall."
With Kennedy's departure, Republicans have a longed-for opportunity to tip the balance of the court. It already has four justices picked by Democratic presidents and four picked by Republicans, so Trump's pick could shift the ideological balance toward conservatives for years to come.
Republicans also have a chance to make judicial nominees a top campaign issue, which could help motivate conservatives and evangelicals to vote in November.
If Republicans unite behind Trump's selection, there's little that Democrats can do to stop it. Republicans changed the Senate rules last year so that Supreme Court nominees cannot be filibustered, meaning only 51 votes will be required to confirm.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this piece.