By Shaun Boyd

WASHINGTON, DC (CBS4)– Pres. Donald Trump will announce his nominee to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday night.

If confirmed, the nominee will create a clear conservative majority on the nation’s highest court for generations to come. That fact is not lost on Pres. Trump.

He tweeted Monday morning: “I have long heard that the most important decision a US President can make is the selection of a Supreme Court Justice.”

CBS has learned he’s narrowed the list of contenders to four appeals court judges.

“Let’s say it’s the four people, but they’re excellent, everyone, you can’t go wrong,” Trump told reporters.

Sources say he’s leaning toward Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Judge Thomas Hardiman. Both have solid conservative credentials. Hardiman also has an intriguing backstory. He’s the first person in his family to graduate college, paying for it by driving taxis. Also in the running are Judge Raymond Kethledge – who Republicans worry may stray left – and Judge Amy Coney Barrett – who Democrats worry will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican representing Colorado, says he’s looking for one thing, “It’s critically important that we find somebody who is interpreting the law not as their personal opinions will lead them but as the law requires. I think these are judges who have been vetted, they’ve received votes, they’ve received, in many cases, bipartisan support.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Hardiman and Kethledge may be the easiest to confirm because their records aren’t as politically charged.

Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer vows a fight, “We already know that President Trump’s nominee will be prepared to overturn the precedence of Roe v. Wade.”

During the last Supreme Court confirmation of Colorado’s Neil Gorsuch, Republicans changed Senate rules to eliminate filibusters for Supreme Court nominees and confirm them by simple majority. Still, Republicans can only lose one vote. They’ll target three Democratic senators who voted for Gorsuch and who are running for re-election in states that Pres. Trump won. Democrats will put pressure on two Republicans who support abortion rights.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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