President Donald Trump announced Monday night he has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the US Supreme Court.
Trump’s pick came from a short list of federal appeals court judges, all with staunch conservative credentials. Now Kavanaugh will face a tense confirmation hearing in the US Senate.
Widely seen as the front-runner candidate, Kavanaugh is a federal appellate judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. He was a former clerk for Kennedy and investigated Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. (Indeed Kavanaugh was a principal author of the report of independent counsel Kenneth Starr.) Kavanaugh also served George W. Bush as a campaign lawyer and the administration of George H.W. Bush as an attorney in the solicitor general’s office.
As Vox’s Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews wrote, the judge is widely known in Republican circles:
He told senators during his confirmation hearings that he’d respect precedent on abortion and declined to share his views on Roe v. Wade. But there’s little doubt that he’d be a doctrinaire conservative on the Supreme Court, and one with a strong belief in presidential power, similar to Samuel Alito.
In the days leading up to Trump’s announcement, some conservatives were concerned Kavanaugh wouldn’t be far enough to the right on certain issues including abortion and health care and that he might be somehow tarnished by his association with the Bush family. Still, Kavanaugh made the cut.
Trump moved quickly to nominate a replacement for Kennedy, who announced his retirement on June 27. Republicans want to complete the confirmation process before the November midterm elections, in case they lose their slim majority in the Senate.
The nomination of Kavanaugh is likely to get through a Republican-controlled Senate. But with fears that a conservative justice could vote to overturn the landmark 1973 abortion ruling Roe v. Wade, all eyes will be on two moderate Republican senators who favor abortion rights: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.
Republicans can afford to lose only two votes if all Senate Democrats band together to vote no as well. But with 2018 being a competitive midterm election year, Trump will likely pressure moderate red-state Democrats who are up for reelection to vote for his pick — in order to prove their bipartisan credentials.
This will be a high-profile fight that could motivate Democratic and Republican voters to go to the polls in November if Kavanaugh hasn’t been confirmed by then. Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would be on the court for decades and have the potential to shape American jurisprudence even longer.