Nominee for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh took his first steps towards becoming a sitting justice by formally introducing himself to a handful of sitting senators, as members of the democratic party openly vowed to block the nomination
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Kavanaugh met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday. The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to convene hearings on his nomination this month.
GOP senators are promising a swift process for Kavanaugh, which would put the nominee on the bench before the new term begins, coming the first day of October.
There is little recourse for Democrats, who have made it clear they will try regardless. Every democrat on the Judiciary Committee joined Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in an impromptu presser Tuesday morning in an attempt to highlight their concerns about the coming rightward slant to the highest court in the land.
High Stakes Politics
With the spectre of a congressional election looming, Democrats are framing the nomination process as a fight to protect health care, civil rights and access to abortion
“I will Oppose him with everything I’ve got” Schumer told CBS early Tuesday Morning.
To prevent the nominee from being confirmed, Democrats would need to be completely united in saying no to Kavanaugh, whilst being able to bring over at least one, and possible two, republicans to their side — a steep challenge, considering the jurist’s solidly conservative credentials.
Kavanaugh’s record, from working on Kenneth Starr’s independent counsel looking into Bill Clinton’s impeachment, to working in George W. Bush’s administration, combined with years sitting on the federal bench will be both a hurdle and a source of ammunition for Democrats.
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters in Washington that Kavanaugh’s hearing wouldn’t happen before the Senate Judiciary committee is set for an early August recess.
“These three hundred cases are a lot of cases to go through,” Grassley said. “We are going to staff up and do it so we can have an intelligent discussion with him before he comes before the committee.”
Grassley also commented on Kavanaugh’s role in former President Bill Clinton’s infamous impeachment proceedings, admitting that it could slow things down, but Grassley stayed committed to getting a vote to committee before the midterm elections in November.
After President Trump announced his nomination, Kavanaugh made a few quick remarks that seemed to acknowledge the coming roadblocks from Democrats. He mentioned his mother’s work as a teacher in public schools in Washington DC, and how he worked to hire a diverse pool of law clerks to work under him.
“I will tell each senator that I revere the Constitution. I believe that an independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic. If confirmed by the Senate, I will keep an open mind in every case.”
McConnell, who has worked hard to help the White House and GOP lawmakers reshape the federal court system, has a huge advantage to help him fill Trump’s pending second Supreme Court vacancy pick. Last year, at McConnell’s urging, GOP senators voted to end the use of filibustering in high court confirmations — a change that happened just before the chamber was set to confirm Trump nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch.
On Tuesday morning, McConnell openly criticized Democrats who had already noted their opposition to Kavanaugh. McConnell called it a play from a ‘partisan playbook’ in spite of McConnell’s own efforts to delay President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court Justice pick by 6 months.
Republicans currently have a paper-thin majority, and with GOP Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) not expected to vote as he battles brain cancer, McConnell and the GOP do not have the freedom to lose a single vote.
Pressure also continues to grow outside the senate floor: NARAL Pro-Choice America and the American Civil Liberties Union are already running attack ads in the states belonging to two republicans who support Abortion rights – Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — with those ads seeks to pressure the senators into voting against Kavanaugh. On Monday night, Collins extolled Kavanaugh’s record and credentials, calling them ‘impressive’ while not appearing to give any firm indication of her voting intentions.
The democrats may indeed struggle to present a united front against Kavanaugh. Three democratic senators who voted for Justice Neil Gorsuch – Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly – are all up for re-election in November, and all in states Trump won decisively in 2016. They may be forced to vote for career over country. All three senators and underdog Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) are feeling pressure from attack ads in their own states, launched by conservative groups urging them to back the President’s pick
The coming years are expected to see the potential for rulings by the supreme court in many cases, affecting everything from regulations, to abortion rights, to health care and possible ramifications from the ongoing criminal investigation into the President himself.
Hurdle or Ammunition?
Several Democrats raised concerns about Kavanaugh while he was a still a judge on the federal appeals circuit in Washington, shortly after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement on June 27.
Kavanaugh was one of 25 possible picks on a list complied by the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society – a list later given directly to President Trump. The former Kennedy law clerk is certainly no stranger to legal and political controversy.
Kavanaugh’s nomination to the circuit court by President Bush was held up for three years by Democrats, who argued he was too partisan to be confirmed. He was, however, confirmed in 2006 on a 57-36 split.
His time on the bench saw Kavanaugh becoming anything but a friend to government regulations, voting to overturn Environmental Protection Agency rules under President Obama. He has also spoken out against the Obama-era Net Neutrality rules, ones that protected the free internet by barring ISP’s from slowing down rival content. While his rulings on abortion rights are unclear, he has publicly sided with President Trump’s administration in a fight with an undocumented teenager seeking to end her pregnancy while in federal custody. His dissenting opinion was that he would have prevent the girl, already 15 weeks pregnant, from having an abortion.
More interestingly is Kavanaugh’s opinion — one he wrote in a law review article — arguing that sitting presidents shouldn’t have to respond to either lawsuits or criminal investigations. Democrats have raised questions about how he would rule in cases involving the current embattled president.
McConnell has only added fuel to that fire, saying that Democrats must accept that they are in no position to demand to know Kavanaugh’s views on how he might rule on particular cases.
“We are evaluating a judge, not a candidate for political office,” he said.
with files from the NewYork Times and Quotes from CBS