By Tyler Bauer
On June 27th, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he would retire from the nation’s highest court at the end of July. This led to predictable reactions from both sides of the aisle, with conservatives celebrating and liberals fearing for their lives.
Before analyzing President Trump’s nominee, let’s review why each side reacted in their respective way. For the conservatives, the departure of Justice Kennedy – paired with Republican control of the federal government – gives the opportunity to stack the Supreme Court with conservative-leaning justices. For liberals, there is fear that a conservative-leaning court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Predictably, conservatives would love such an outcome.
I understand why we all seem to care about the Supreme Court, especially in the current climate. Roe v. Wade is certainly an important topic, here’s a question nobody is asking: Why is the Supreme Court so powerful? Seeing as both sides of the aisle are fearful about what a court full of the other side’s appointees could accomplish, why don’t we reduce the power of the Supreme Court? Sure, that’s no easy task, but if conservatives and liberals are terrified of the other group having too much control over the court, why don’t they work together to do something both sides should agree on – reducing the influence the Supreme Court has on politics. If we were to reduce the power of the Supreme Court, neither side would have to worry about the consequences of losing control of the court.
Of course, this would mean relinquishing the possibility of controlling the court, so this will (probably) never happen.
President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh, a Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, for the soon-to-be vacant Supreme Court seat. Kavanaugh, a 53-year-old graduate of Yale University, has long been considered a frontrunner for Kennedy’s seat and, if confirmed, could serve for decades. Kavanaugh became a Judge on the D.C. Circuit in 2006 after being appointed by then-President George W. Bush. Kavanaugh has spent the past twelve years on the D.C. Circuit, making a number of consequential decisions in his time in that role.
On a Few Issues
Kavanaugh has stated in the past that he intends to uphold Roe v. Wade, but has also ruled in favor of some restrictions on abortion. By my interpretation, it appears as though Kavanaugh falls into the “safe, legal, and rare” category of pro-choice judges.
Kavanaugh has generally opposed excessive regulation and the overreach of government agencies in his time on the D.C. Circuit, making him an ally for businesses.
Kavanaugh has frequently sided with religious groups and organizations. In Priests for Life v. HHS, Kavanaugh decided that the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate violated religious liberty, and was therefore unconstitutional. (He’s right, by the way.)
Minutes after his nomination, Kavanaugh was enthusiastically endorsed by the NRA in a tweet.
Will Kavanaugh be Confirmed?
With the Republicans controlling the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, this seems like a perfect opportunity to fill a Supreme Court seat. However, it likely won’t be as easy as Republicans would hope.
On a personal level, Kavanaugh’s profile is acceptable. He’s a fairly clean-cut person. He’s a family man, an Ivy Leaguer, and doesn’t seem to have many skeletons in his closet. One thing that could be both a blessing and a curse is his religion. Kavanaugh is a devout Catholic, which some Senators haven’t been too accepting of in the past. (Can we take a second to realize the audacity of telling someone their religious beliefs make them ineligible for a job?) Expect his religious believes to make him a favorite of the Right and an enemy of the Left.
On the issues, Kavanaugh is right-of-center, but by no means a right-wing nutjob, so he shouldn’t be so far right that he’s unacceptable to a majority of the population. Democrats will almost certainly grill Kavanaugh for his support of businesses and religious freedom, seeing these opinions as hurting the poor and being discriminatory. Additionally, I expect his religion to be brought up a number of times. Although he is on the record as being at least somewhat pro-choice, I expect Democrats to accuse him of being incapable of ruling on abortion cases due to his Catholic beliefs.
There is one particular part of Kavanaugh’s history that spells trouble for him and the Republican Party. While he was confirmed and joined the D.C. Circuit in 2006, he was actually nominated in 2003. It took three full years for Kavanaugh to be confirmed. This was due to his perceived partisanship, with some Democrats calling Kavanaugh a “political operative.” To be fair, Kavanaugh did work for President George W. Bush before joining the circuit court, but I believe this accusation is overblown. If the Republicans want to put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, they should hurry up and do it while they control the House and the Senate.
Although there is no set backup plan should Kavanaugh’s nomination fall through, Amy Coney-Barrett is expected to be next in line. However, I don’t think this will be necessary – I expect Kavanaugh to be confirmed, but it won’t be a walk in the park.