By: Mac Williams
Sept. 4, 2018 was the beginning of confirmation hearings for Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the U.S Supreme Court. Kavanaugh was selected to fill the seat held by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy who announced his retirement on June 27. According to the U.S Constitution when a seat on the Supreme Court becomes available it is the President’s responsibility to nominate a new Justice. Once that person has been nominated the Senate must then advise and consent on the nominee and vote whether or not he or she should be confirmed and awarded a seat on the court. Justices on the Supreme Court are not affected by term limits as their position is a lifetime appointment, and the only way a justice is replaced is by death or retirement.
This particular nomination has sparked heated debate during Senate confirmation hearings as Senate Democrats look to prevent Kavanaugh from filling the vacancy on the court. According to Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, Kavanaugh served as counsel and staff secretary to President George W. Bush and was an investigator of President Bill Clinton during the Ken Starr investigation in the late 1990’s. Since serving in the Bush administration in the early 2000’s, Kavanaugh has served as a judge on the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which is considered the second most powerful court in the country.
The reason this nomination has sparked such contention is because Kavanaugh’s confirmation would establish a firm conservative majority on the Supreme Court. The Court only has nine Justices and currently there are four Justices who have established themselves as conservatives and four justices who have established themselves as liberals. With the potential addition of Kavanaugh that would tip the balance of the court to a 5-4 majority in favor of conservatives.
As the confirmation hearings have progressed questioning from Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the committee that conducts the hearing, has sharpened. According to the Washington Post, during the second day of questioning Kavanaugh declined to answer whether or not he would recuse himself from any case involving the special counsel investigation of President Trump. Additionally, he declined to say whether or not Roe v. Wade was correctly decided. Roe v. Wade established the national precedent of a woman’s right to choose, with respect to having an abortion.
Senate Democrats have also ratcheted up the pressure on Republicans to release more documents related to Kavanaugh’s past. According to CNN, the Trump administration is withholding over 100,000 pages of documents related to Kavanugh’s public service because the White House and Department of Justice have determined they are protected by constitutional privilege.
Hearings will continue over the next few days concluding with a vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the court. Republicans own a 51-49 majority in the Senate and can confirm Kavanaugh with a vote along partisan lines.