Grassley cites midterms in plea to Supreme Court justices to decide on retirement

People gather outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the U.S. v. Micosoft case February 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Washington (CNN)Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley had a message on Thursday for any Supreme Court justice considering retirement: announce your intentions soon.

"I just hope that if there is going to be a nominee," Grassley told talk show host Hugh Hewitt, that it should be announced within two or three weeks, "because we've got to get this done before the election."
He added, "So my message to any one of the nine Supreme Court justices, if you're thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday."
Grassley, R-Iowa, noted there is generally about a "50, 60, 70" day lag between a nomination and a confirmation.
    Justice Anthony Kennedy has been the subject of constant retirement rumors since President Donald Trump took office last year.
    A Supreme Court retirement would start an epic battle -- especially if Kennedy, the court's key swing vote, were to step down. In the current climate, he would likely be replaced with a younger, more conservative nominee who could cement the court's rightward tilt for decades to come.
    For now, no one knows Kennedy's intentions. The justices have finished hearing oral arguments for the term and are frantically working behind the scenes to release all remaining opinions by the end of June. The next opinion day is anticipated for Monday.
    "I think only one person knows and that's Justice Kennedy," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters on Thursday.
    Cornyn speculated Grassley is looking ahead.
    "I'm sure he's thinking about how long it takes to process a nomination, do the appropriate background checks, that sort of thing, maybe that's what he's thinking. But we'll just have to wait and see. I assure you that if there's a vacancy, Senator (Mitch) McConnell and Senator Grassley will make that a priority," Cornyn said.
    Grassley's comments came just before a contentious committee meeting where Democrats accused Republicans, once again, of moving too quickly in pushing through President Trump's lower court nominees. Grassley's goal is to confirm five district judges and at least one circuit judge every other week between now and December. Democrats are using the few procedural tools available to them in an attempt to slow the process.
    Grassley also commented upon the impact the next election could have on Trump's goal to reshape the judiciary.
      "If we have a Democrat Senate, you're never going to get the kind of people that are strict constructionists that [White House Counsel] Don McGahn is getting up to us," he said.
      If the Democrats were to win the Senate, nominees would be "a little more like Kennedy," he said.