WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy says he is retiring. That will give President Donald Trump the chance to cement conservative control of the high court.

The 81-year-old Kennedy said Wednesday he is stepping down after more than 30 years on the court. A Republican appointee, he has held the key vote on such high-profile issues as abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, guns, campaign finance and voting rights.

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was quick to offer praise of Kennedy in the wake of his announcement.

"In particular, we owe him a debt of thanks for his ardent defense of the First Amendment right to political speech," McConnell said, in a statement. "As Justice Kennedy concludes his tenure on the Court, we wish him, his wife Mary, and their family every happiness in the years ahead."

U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) also thanked Kennedy for "his countless years of distinguished service."

"I join my fellow Americans in wishing him all the best in the future," Young said, in a statement. "I look forward to voting to confirm a faithful constitutionalist onto the court."

Copyright 2018 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.