A cloud is looming over the Senate Tuesday, and its name is D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump nominated Kavanaugh Monday evening to officially replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. The nomination has riled conservatives who are hungry to see a Supreme Court champion conservative causes, but has also struck fear in Democrats. (RELATED: Kavanaugh’s Record Is Deeply Conservative)
Senate Republicans Tuesday made clear they believe Kavanaugh is a well qualified, highly respected judge that should make it through the confirmation process, acknowledging there will likely be a few bumps in the road.
“Well, I’m sorry to say that Judge Kavanaugh seems to have already broken that record — because Senate Democrats were on the record opposing him before he’d even been named, before the ink was even dry on Justice Kennedy’s resignation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement late Monday evening. “This is a tell-tale sign that some of our colleagues are throwing thoughtful, independent judgment out the window and are outsourcing their thinking on this matter to far-left special interest groups.”
The fight from Democrats is a concern for many within the Republican conference, but only insofar as it obstructs business in the upper chamber. The seemingly unanimous view from Republicans is that Kavanaugh will make it through, likely with the help of some red-state Democrats.
“I think he does have an extensive record as a judge — 12 years on the D.C. circuit. I think we ought to be able to handle this on roughly the same timetable as Sotomayor,” Republican Sen. Cornyn of Texas told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Cornyn also gave a timetable for confirming Kavanaugh: somewhere around “66 days.” This is roughly about as long as it took the Senate to confirm both Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor.
The number three Republican in the Senate — Sen. John Thune of South Dakota — told TheDCNF he expects the confirmation process to be “spirited,” but “fair, and thinks Kavnaugh is already in the bag.
“Obviously, he’s been vetted a lot already. He’s got a lengthy record but seems like a strong bid,” Thune told TheDCNF.
Kavanaugh will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks, ahead of a chamber-wide vote on his confirmation. TheDCNF spoke with multiple members of the committee Tuesday, offering a small glimpse into how the exchanges could play out.
GOP members of the committee exuded great levels of confidence in Kavanaugh, outright promising his confirmation and championing him as a great pick on the part of the president.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the judiciary committee, told TheDCNF that he was going to support him 100 percent, claiming “you can put that one in the bag.”
Despite a great deal of loaded rhetoric after Trump’s announcement, Graham said he believes more Democrats will vote for Kavanaugh than voted for Gorsuch.
Another Republican on the committee, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who fervently pushed the president and the administration to consider his friend and colleague Sen. Mike Lee of Utah for the nomination, said he is confident that Kavanaugh will see a swift and fair confirmation process.
“It’s the president’s prerogative to nominate justices under the Constitution,” Cruz told TheDCNF. “President Trump has nominated Judge Kavanaugh and by any measure he’s one of the most respected federal judges in the country and I’m confident he will be confirmed and confirmed by the first Monday in October the start of the New Jersey Senator.”
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona would not directly answer TheDCNF about his eventual vote on Kavanaugh, simply stating that he thinks “he is a strong pick” and plans to “meet with him in my office in the coming weeks.”
Another member of the committee, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, told TheDCNF he will want to see “all of his writings and memos from his time at the White House.”
“Republicans, they had to do that with Elena Kagan. I agreed with them. I’m sure they wouldn’t want to have a different standard for him than they had for her. I am looking forward to seeing them,” Leahy told TheDCNF.
Leahy, notably, voted against Kavanaugh for the court of appeals because he failed to answer his questions and the questions of many Democrats as it related to those topics. The senator said he is willing to start over again and give the judge a fair shake, but that how he would handle criminal law and the “investigation” or prosecution of a president will be key deciding factors in his decision.
While not a member of the committee, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut highlighted concerns about the need to comb through Kavanaugh’s past writings and the serious questions his past views on prosecution within the executive branch.
“I have not read all of his writings on special counsel powers and potential prosecution of the executive branch. But you know given how quick a case may come to the court regarding the Mueller investigation and the consequences of it I’m very concerned,” Murphy told reporters. “I think it’s certainly a level of concern, especially a level of concern when he’s going to have a feeling of debt and gratitude to the president that just nominated him. So I’m very concerned.”
Possibly the hardest stance on the Democratic side of the aisle Tuesday came from Sen. Corey Booker of New Jersey who told reporters that the “whole 99 should be against” Kavanaugh due to the special counsel concerns.
Two of the biggest unknowns for Kavanaugh’s fate in the Senate are GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. Collins and Murkowski notably voted against iterations of Obamacare repeal in 2017 because they were concerned about a number of health care issues, like women’s health care, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and others.
“Certainly, when you look at the credentials that Judge Kavanaugh brings to the job, it will be very difficult for anyone to argue that he’s not qualified for the job,” Collins told reporters. “He’s clearly qualified for the job, but there are other issues involving judicial temperament and … judicial philosophy that also will play into my decision.”
TheDCNF pressed Collins on what her key hang-ups or concerns will be in regards to Kavanaugh.
“I’m particularly concerned about his 2009 memo around the power of the president. I would like to know why you changed his from when he worked for Ken Star, to 2009 when we apparently took a very different approach and what he would do if the Mueller investigation were to come back with recommendations with something that affects the president,” Collins told TheDCNF.
Like her colleagues, Murkowski also said Kavanaugh is an impressive judge, but that she has not made up her mind.
“I believe that the judge has impressive credentials. He clearly has extensive experience having spent more than a decade as a judge on the D.C. Circuit. Nevertheless you obviously want the opportunity to sit down with him one on one and to get a better sense of his judicial philosophy. I have done that with the every justice. I do not apply and ideological tags to their personal views,” Murkowski told the DCNF.
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