WASHINGTON (BP) — Brett Kavanaugh appears likely to gain confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court after completing the gauntlet that is now the hearing process for nominees to the country’s highest bench.
The Senate is expected to hold a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh, 53, before the Supreme Court begins its term Oct. 1. President Trump nominated the appeals court judge July 9 following the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Kavanaugh — a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals — appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 4-6. He received on the last two days often tough questioning from Democrats in particular. His responses seemed not to damage his support among Senate Republicans, who hold a 51-49 advantage, and some of his supporters expressed confidence a few Democrats would join them in an affirmative confirmation vote in which only a majority is required.
Democrats on the committee pressed Kavanaugh on his opinion of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, as well as his view of presidential authority. Democrats also squabbled with Republicans on the committee regarding the release of documents on Kavanaugh. Outbursts from protesters opposing the nominee punctuated the hearing, and police took dozens from the room.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore commended Kavanaugh while expressing his dismay with the theatrics.
“Careful consideration of potential justices for our nation’s highest court is understandable and even commendable,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “But the hysteria around the confirmation hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week is a sign of a dysfunctional political climate.
“Brett Kavanaugh is eminently qualified, and attempts to fashion him as some partisan Trojan horse ignore a career marked by judicial restraint and faithfulness to the Constitution,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “I join with many other Baptists and evangelicals in calling upon the Senate to confirm Judge Kavanaugh without delay.”
On the evening Trump announced his nomination of Kavanaugh, a statement signed by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, both vice presidents, several former presidents and SBC entity heads was released in support of the judge. The ERLC sponsored the document.
Later, Greear — speaking on behalf of first vice president A.B. Vines and second vice president Felix Cabrera — said, “All three of us have a desire to keep the SBC out of politics, but we also want to speak with clarity in those places we feel like there is clarity. And when it came to potential justice Kavanaugh, here’s somebody who has a history of standing for the sanctity of life and religious liberty.”
Kavanaugh’s record as an appellate judge has received favorable reviews from nearly all pro-life and religious freedom advocates.
On the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion, Kavanaugh told the committee Thursday (Sept. 6) his advice while working in the White House in 2003 that the ruling not be described as the “settled law of the land” reflected the “views of legal scholars,” not his own perspective, The Washington Post reported. In the email, Kavanaugh said the high court “can always overrule its precedent,” according to The Post.
Sen. Susan Collins, a pro-choice Republican from Maine, said Aug. 21 after meeting with Kavanaugh that he told her he believes Roe is “settled law.”
Regarding judicial independence and presidential power, Kavanaugh said Sept. 6, The Post reported, “I’ve made clear in my writings that a court order that requires a president to do something or prohibits a president from doing something is the final word in our system.”
In his opening statement Sept. 4, the nominee said, “My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. A judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”
The hearing closed Friday (Sept. 7) with testimony from witnesses both in support of and in opposition to Kavanaugh.
The American Bar Association has given the nominee a rating of “unanimously well-qualified.”
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, Trump will have been able to nominate two of the members of the high court in his first two years in the White House. He nominated Neil Gorsuch in January 2017, and the Senate confirmed the federal appeals court judge in a 54-45 vote.
A judge on the D.C. Circuit Court for 12 years, Kavanaugh was nominated to that bench in 2003 by President George W. Bush but did not receive a confirmation vote for three years, when he was approved 57-36 by the Senate. Previously, his experience included time as a senior associate counsel and staff secretary for Bush, as well as a Supreme Court clerk for Kennedy.