If you don’t believe selection of Supreme Court justices is all about politics, sample the reaction to President Donald Trump’s announcement that Brett Kavanaugh is his choice to succeed the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez: “Judge Kavanaugh should not be allowed anywhere near our nation’s highest bench. Let’s be clear: a vote for Kavanaugh would be a vote to rip health care from American families and deny women their constitutional right to make their own health care decisions. We know exactly why Kavanaugh was chosen. President Trump himself said that overturning Roe vs. Wade and gutting the Affordable Care Act would be litmus tests for his Supreme Court nominee, and Kavanaugh fits the script. He’s suggested a future president could refuse to enforce the Affordable Care Act, even if it was upheld by the Supreme Court. And he dissented from a ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit.”
Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron: “… Kavanaugh has established a record that shows his lack of commitment to consumers' rights, workers' rights, clean air and water, and the fundamental principle that no president is above the law. His confirmation would definitively shift the balance of the court and turn the clock back on our rights and liberties for the next generation."
Americans for Prosperity-South Carolina Director Andrew Yates: “President Trump hit it out of the park with this nomination. Judge Brett Kavanaugh is an eminently qualified jurist with a stellar record of judicial restraint and fidelity to the U.S. Constitution. Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated that he has the experience and the temperament to be an excellent Supreme Court justice.”
S.C. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster: “I have no doubt that Judge Brett Kavanaugh will make an outstanding justice of the Supreme Court and will strictly defend the rule of law. President Trump promised to nominate conservative judges who will strictly follow the Constitution and exercise restraint rather than activism, and once again he has done just that.”
S.C. 2nd District Republican Congressman Joe Wilson: “The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a highly qualified and highly respected judge, is a home run. He has a distinguished record of being fair, impartial, and faithful to the Constitution. I hope that members of the Senate will swiftly confirm him."
It’s almost as if the foes and proponents are referencing a different person. Both are viewing the Trump nominee only through the prism of politics. Good thing that history proves Supreme Court justices do not conform to the political identities assigned them during the nomination and confirmation process. An independent judiciary remains vital.
The real battle here is Republicans wanting to get a “conservative” on the court while Democrats are trying to do anything possible to derail a Trump nominee until after the November elections, when the minority party hopes to become a majority in the U.S. Senate. Then Democrats could refuse to confirm a Trump appointee.
Democrats criticizing lack of bipartisan support for the nominee should admit it was their Senate leadership, then in the majority, that just five years ago undid the Senate rules requiring 60 votes to approve a justice. As a result, a majority vote is all that is needed to confirm.
Elections have consequences. Trump won the election and Republicans have control of the Senate. They are in position to nominate and confirm a new justice and do so now.
The politics of judicial appointments never was supposed to be this way. If a justice is qualified, the president’s appointee should be OK’d by the Senate as the norm.
Kavanaugh is a graduate of Yale Law School and former clerk to Kennedy. He received bipartisan support in 2006 for his confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. During 12 years on the federal bench, Kavanaugh has a distinguished record.
Soon the Senate will grill him in a giant political show, with Democrats doing their best to paint Kavanaugh as no more than a partisan vote for a conservative agenda. Yet unless something in Kavanaugh’s background rises to the level of disqualifying the jurist, he will be confirmed by a GOP Senate majority. Maybe even a few Democrats will join in. They should.