And the rose goes to…Brett Kavanaugh
In a prime time broadcast to the nation, President Donald Trump announced his second nominee for the Supreme Court in his term, Brett Kavanaugh. If confirmed, Kavanaugh will be the replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy who announced his retirement from the highest court on June 27th, 2018. Kennedy was the last sitting justice appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed to replace Justice Antonin Scalia in April of 2017 with a 54-45 vote in the senate. Kavanaugh’s confirmation will also likely be a close vote.
President Trump announced his nomination of Kavanaugh, saying “I’ve often heard that other than matters of war and peace, this is the most important decision a president will make.” He went on to thank Kavanaugh’s family for joining him on stage and said Kavanaugh is considered a “judge’s judge” and a “true thought leader among his peers.”
“There is no one more qualified for this position and no one more deserving,” Trump said of Kavanaugh to an audience of journalists and lawmakers, including former Attorney General under Ronald Reagan Ed Meese.
Kavanaugh, in taking the podium, said “No president has ever consulted more widely…to seek input on a Supreme Court nomination. I am humbled by your confidence in me.” In talking about his upbringing, he spoke of his mother, a teacher and prosecutor, and his father, who went to law school at night while working full-time. The motto of his high school was “Men for others” and Kavanaugh spoke of how he has tried to live by that in his life as a public servant.
When describing his judicial philosophy, Kavanaugh said “a judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret the constitution as writter, informed by history and tradition and precedent.” He went on to say “I believe an independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic.”
Brett Kavanaugh is currently 53-years-old but has quite a bit of experience in the legal realm. After graduating cum laude from Yale College he attended Yale Law School, the top law school in the nation according to a 2019 US News ranking. In law school, he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. After graduation, he worked for several judges, including clerking for Justice Anthony Kennedy, and a stint working for Solicitor General Ken Starr, who oversaw the investigation into Bill Clinton. Kavanaugh also worked in the Bush 43 White House as associate counsel and staff secretary.
In 2003, Kavanaugh was nominated by President George W Bush to the DC Circuit of the Court of Appeals, where he has resided since he was confirmed in 2006 by a vote of 57-36. In his role on the court, he has supported restrictions on abortion, dissented on the court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, and authored a total of nearly 300 opinions in just over a decade on the court.
Kavanaugh has also frequented the classroom, teaching courses such as Separation of Powers and Supreme Court at Harvard Law School and Foreign Relations Law at Yale Law School.One of Kavanaugh’s students at Yale Law School, JD Vance, the author of best-selling memoir Hillbilly Elegy, spoke highly Kavanaugh, saying:
“He is a committed textualist and originalist, one whose time on the bench has revealed a unique ability to apply these principles to legal facts. He deeply believes in the constitutional separation of powers as a means for ensuring governmental accountability and protecting individual liberty. From the start of his career, he’s applied the Constitution faithfully, even when that made him a lonely voice. He has done so with particular tenacity on the issue that matters most to the president: taking power away from unelected bureaucrats and returning it to elected officials.”
According to his official court biography, Kavanaugh is a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. He also ran (and completed) the Boston Marathon in 2010 and 2015. Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley have two daughters. As he revealed in his speech announcing his nomination, he and his wife had their first date on the night before 9/11, when they both worked for the Bush administration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has previously stated that he intends to have Kavanaugh confirmed to the court by the time their October session begins. With 51 seats for the Republicans in the Senate and John McCain unlikely to vote while he undergoes cancer treatment, it is likely that Republicans will need some Democrat votes to get Kavanaugh appointed. According to the Hill, Rand Paul and Tom Cotton have privately expressed concerns about Kavanaugh. There are some Democrats in red states that supported Trump that might come around and vote for Kavanaugh, including Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.