WASHINGTON — White House officials on hand for President Trump’s primetime nomination Monday of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court immediately praised the pick and predicted Kavanaugh would sail through the confirmation process in time for the Supreme Court’s next session, which begins Oct. 1.
“There’s nobody more qualified and the Senate should do their job. There’s no reason in the world they shouldn’t put this through and put it through quickly,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Yahoo News.
“He’s kind of the standard bearer. Everybody in the country looks to this guy on what to do with the law, so it should go fast,” she added.
Both Sanders and White House director of legislative affairs Marc Short predicted Kavanaugh could be confirmed in time for the start of the court’s next session. For his part, Short praised Kavanaugh’s “credentials” and “the way he served our country.” Short also said the White House “absolutely” expected some Democrats to back Kavanaugh.
In his speech, Trump claimed he received “consultation and advice” from “senators on both sides of the aisle” before picking Kavanaugh. Yahoo News asked Sanders which Democrats were involved in the process. She didn’t identify any, instead emphasizing her belief the confirmation process would be rapid.
“We’ve talked to a number of people,” Sanders said, adding, “We’re going to continue pushing forward. We have a great candidate and we think it’s going to be fast.”
Kavanaugh made it to his current post in 2006 after years of opposition from Democrats who objected to his partisan history. Before becoming a judge, Kavanaugh worked for special prosecutor Kenneth Starr during his effort to impeach President Bill Clinton. Kavanaugh went on to do legal work for George W. Bush during the bitter recount battle that followed the 2000 presidential election. When Bush made it to the White House, Kavanaugh took a position on his staff.
A reporter asked Short why he expected Kavanaugh to sail through confirmation in this current climate of partisanship, and in light of the past resistance he faced from Democrats when he was named to the lower court. Short acknowledged the political scene may be even more divided than before, but he still doubled down on his optimistic view of Kavanaugh’s chances.
“I think what’s … disappointing is seeing Democrats who said they would be opposed … before we even announced the nominee. So, I do think that the process unfortunately has changed in ways that became more close-minded,” Short said. “But I think this candidate is going to win over plenty of support.”
While Democrats began speaking out against a potential Trump Supreme Court nominee prior to Monday night’s announcement, the president’s pick wasn’t a total surprise. Trump had promised to choose from a list of 25 judges compiled with input from two prominent conservative groups, the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. Kavanaugh was on the original list.
If he is confirmed, Kavanaugh, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, would be the second Supreme Court justice appointed by Trump. Kavanaugh would be replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement late last month. Kennedy earned a reputation as a swing vote on the court and the arrival of a new Trump appointee chosen with the help of conservative groups would ensure a right-leaning court for years to come.
Trump’s first nominee for the high court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed last April, with three Democrats joining all of the Senate Republicans to back his nomination. This time around, with the balance of the court at stake, Democrats are gearing up to fight.
Even if Senate Democrats maintain a united front, they won’t have the votes to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation. However, the Republican edge is slim. With Arizona Sen. John McCain currently absent as he battles cancer, the GOP has just a one-vote lead. The situation has positioned two Republican senators, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, as the key votes. Both have been in favor of abortion rights and, on the campaign trail, Trump vowed he would only pick “pro-life” judges for the Supreme Court. Trump’s pledge, coupled with the involvement of pro-life conservative groups in his selection process, has some Democrats hoping Murkowski and Collins would join them in opposing Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh hasn’t taken a public position on Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed abortion rights. However, the White House officials present at Trump’s announcement dismissed the idea abortion should be a factor in his confirmation.
“I don’t think that the president asked anyone how they’d rule on any previous case,” Short said. “He was looking for temperament and … more broadly what their viewpoint is on how they interpret the Constitution.”
Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway told Yahoo News she didn’t think abortion would be a major factor. She pointed out the Supreme Court “tackles” a wide array of issues.
“It would be nice if people recognized that the Supreme Court has a very full docket,” Conway said. “The Constitution, last time I read it, includes many different clauses and articles and 26 amendments. There’s nobody ever talks about the commerce clause.”
Conway pointed out that abortion has remained legal under multiple Republican presidents and suggested the left uses the possibility it could be outlawed as a “scare tactic.”
“Those who have left the pro-abortion field for pro-life pastures admit that it’s a great way to raise money … to constantly scare people and dare people,” said Conway.
Conway bristled when another reporter asked her if she believed Roe v. Wade would stay in place “forever.”
“Now how would I say that?” Conway asked. “Who could answer that question? It’s not even a good question. Sorry.”
Conway went on to suggest Roe v. Wade would be covered by the legal principle where Supreme Court justices generally follow precedent and avoid overruling prior decisions.
“I think it’s stare decisis. I went to law school, you know,” Conway said.
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