Sen. Mike Lee says the retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is a “very real possibility” that could take place before July.

The Utah Republican added that Justice Kennedy, a Reagan appointee who has split with conservative jurists on issues like gay marriage and abortion, would prefer to be replaced by a Republican president.

“A lot of chatter suggesting that Justice Kennedy might be preparing for retirement as soon as this year,” Mr. Lee said Tuesday on Fox News Radio’s “Benson & Harf.” “Sometime between now and the end of June or first day or two of July would be when we would expect an announcement from Justice Kennedy if he were going to do it. What I am hearing is that he is at least considering it and it’s a very real possibility.”

“What I also heard is that having been appointed by President Reagan in the late 1980’s, he considers himself a Republican and with all things being equal would like to be replaced by a Republican President,” he continued.

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Mr. Lee is a lawyer by trade who clerked for Samuel Alito when the associate justice was serving as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. His father, Rex Lee, served as solicitor general under President Reagan.

Should Justice Kennedy retire, Mr. Lee said filling the vacancy on the court would become the Senate’s top priority.

“It should be something that we jump right onto and something we certainly should complete before we get into the election cycle,” he said. “If President Trump ends up having a chance to nominate someone to the Supreme Court we need to get that nominee confirmed.”

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