President Trump officially tapped D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in a primetime announcement yesterday. The proposed replacement for former Justice Anthony Kennedy — who was widely viewed as a swing vote on the nine-judge panel — is perceived as a consensus pick for Republicans and is expected to lead the court in a more conservative direction. Kavanaugh, who will likely start his lifetime term at age 53, comes with the sterling credentials expected of Supreme Court nominees having graduated from Yale Law School, published a number of influential legal articles and spent over a decade on the nation’s second-highest court. However, Democrats are likely to take issue with the political positions on his resume, such as serving in a lead role of Ken Starr’s investigation into former President Bill Clinton and being White House Staff Secretary under President George W. Bush.
In his statement on the nomination, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that President Trump had made a “superb choice” and urged his Senate colleagues to “put partisanship aside and consider his legal qualifications with the fairness, respect, and seriousness that a Supreme Court nomination ought to command.” While nearly all Republicans are likely to immediately endorse the nomination, most Democrats are equally likely to oppose it over ideological differences and continued frustration over Leader McConnell’s treatment of former President Barack Obama’s nominee for the court, Merrick Garland, in 2016. Abortion rights — specifically a stance on the Roe v. Wade decision to block state laws outlawing abortions — is quickly emerging as the key issue in determining whether Kavanaugh will glide to an easy confirmation. Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) favor keeping Roe on the books as federal precedent, meaning that Kavanaugh will need to give balanced remarks on the issue in his confirmation hearing in order to secure all votes from the narrow Republican majority.
In congressional action, the House reconvenes today following last week’s recess, and is expected to vote on a slate of fourteen suspension bills this afternoon. Those measures include bills intended to provide more congressional oversight of American negotiators in international regulatory forums on insurance standards (H.R. 4537) and a bill to expand the services and benefits for the Peace Corps program. (H.R. 2259).
The Senate will also hold its first votes of the week today. Specifically, the upper chamber is scheduled to hold a final vote on the confirmation of Mark Bennet to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit and a cloture vote on the nomination of Brian Benczkowski to be an Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice.