Kavanaugh once wrote that the president of the United States should not be subjected to legal challenges while in office.
Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.
President Donald Trump announced Judge Brett Kavanaugh is his pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court in an evening television address on Monday, July 9.
Kavanaugh currently serves on the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. He grew up in Maryland and attended Yale Law School. He clerked for Kennedy, the man he’s set to replace. After serving as George W. Bush’s White House counsel and staff secretary, Kavanaugh was nominated for the appellate court by Bush in 2006.
In his career, he also worked for lawyer Kenneth Starr and helped to write a report in the late 1990s that laid out 11 ways in which President Bill Clinton could be impeached. His expertise in impeachment — or defense from it — could come into play during Trump’s tenure.
And long before his career in politics, Kavanaugh had an unlikely connection to Trump’s other Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch.
Vaguely fun fact: Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh went to high school together.— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) July 10, 2018\n
Kavanaugh is 53 years old, making it likely that he’ll serve as a reliably conservative justice for decades to come if his nomination is approved.
Instead of the activist conservative that many were expecting Trump to pick, Kavanaugh is a D.C. Republican insider.
He is known as the “Forrest Gump of Republican politics” and has taken a typical path to the highest court in the land. Some conservatives are afraid that Kavanaugh is just not conservative enough, criticizing him for not declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional and for his opinion that a pregnant teenager in immigration detention had a right to an abortion but not an immediate one.
Ironically, Kavanaugh might have too much experience for some Republican leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is concerned about giving the Senate too much to sift through to the detriment of a speedy confirmation process, though he lauded the pick after Trump’s announcement. After all, Kavanaugh has written almost 300 opinions on the D.C. Circuit.
This doesn’t mean that Democrats will embrace Kavanaugh either. Democratic leaders are still upset over the GOP’s blocking of the nomination of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland.
Brett Kavanaugh is a nice guy. So is Merrick Garland, the chief judge on Kavanaugh’s court.— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) July 10, 2018\n
Many Democratic senators have argued that a vote on the Supreme Court nominee shouldn’t take place before the midterm elections, hoping that they’ll gain the majority needed to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
However, some facing tough re-election bids in red states might break ranks to support Trump’s pick. Many red-state Democrats up for re-election are faced with a difficult choice: If they oppose the president, they may lose their seats. If they support the president, they may win their seats but lose respect from other Democrats.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are widely considered to be swing votes for a process that needs a 51-vote majority for confirmation.
Twitter wryly noticed both senators’ absence from the announcement.
Some Twitter users are urging them to oppose the nomination.
Big issues for the Supreme Court
The biggest fear many progressive Americans have is that the next Supreme Court nominee would repeal Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal in the United States.
In the past, Kavanaugh has said that he would follow Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights and refused to give an opinion Roe v. Wade — a sure disappointment for conservatives. But even if he doesn’t outright declare abortion unconstitutional, he could make rulings that fall just short of that outcome. Take his dissenting opinion in the case of the pregnant undocumented immigrant: He said that delaying her ability to get an abortion did not place an “undue burden” on her.
The Supreme Court is also set to hear cases on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and whether local cities can declare themselves sanctuary cities, which would make Kavanaugh a key decisionmaker on immigration issues. A U.S. district judge has ruled against two out of three Trump administration claims against California’s sanctuary state law; this issue is far from being settled.
The Supreme Court might also hear cases concerning LGBTQ rights, gun control, and voting rights. Progressives tend to be afraid that a conservative nominee would roll back those protections.
Kavanaugh has unprecedented power to turn back the clock.
In one of his more eyebrow-raising law articles, Kavanaugh once wrote that a president of the United States should not be subjected to legal challenges while in office because of how “difficult” it is to be commander-in-chief. For some, this raises his concern about how he would rule for the especially controversial investigations into the Trump administration.
Social media reacts
The Twitter reaction has been swift and passionate.
My statement on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice: pic.twitter.com/SEZmSbZg9C— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) July 10, 2018\n
His answer is irrelevant. He was required to follow precedent on the Appeals Court. He won’t be on SCOTUS. Conservative Supreme Court justices have been busting up precedent left and right. He is being chosen to overturn Roe - plain and simple. https://t.co/7hSy3p7KFw— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) July 10, 2018\n
Both liberals and conservatives offered their opinions.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials & a strong record of upholding the Constitution. He is widely respected as a fair, independent & mainstream judge. I look forward to the Senate moving forward with a fair & thorough confirmation process. https://t.co/5Y5oWo36RB— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) July 10, 2018\n
Clever! Dems should either vote yes on Kavanaugh OR "name at least 2 clearly better candidates whom a Republican president might realistically have nominated." https://t.co/44GEhDkJaj— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) July 10, 2018\n
Maggie Haberman chose to get meta about the stage-managing of the announcement in the first place.
Ratings ratings ratings https://t.co/QPWsyxMR5N— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 10, 2018\n