Brett Kavanaugh being sworn in as a federal judge by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2006. Kavanaugh is Trump's pick to replace Kennedy on the Supreme Court.
PAUL J. RICHARDS / AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Chuck Grassley announced on Friday that confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will begin on September 4th. Grassley has stated that the process should take about two weeks. If Kavanaugh is cleared by the committee, his nomination could make it to the Senate floor for a vote within a few days, according to Grassley. Sounds like Chairman Grassley is eager to meet the GOP’s self-imposed deadline to seat the next Supreme Court Justice by October.
So why the rush job? The obvious answer is that Republicans would like to get Kavanaugh seated before the midterms in November when it is very possible they may lose their majority in the House and perhaps the Senate, as well, threatening the confirmation of this controversial nominee.
Many fear that Kavanaugh on the bench would be a threat to women’s reproductive rights, worker’s rights and voting rights. Just take for example, his time clerking for Judge Walter Stapleton of the Third Circuit in the 1990’s. At the time Stapleton wrote the majority opinion in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, which upheld many of Pennsylvania’s abortion restrictions. Other examples of Kavanaugh’s partisan bona fides include working as associate counsel to Ken Starr and authoring the Starr Report on the Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton, Vince Foster investigation. As White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales during the 2nd Bush administration, Kavanaugh worked on the nomination of Justice Roberts.
In the news currently and receiving much scrutiny is Kavanaugh’s stint in the George W. Bush White House. When Bush nominated Kavanaugh for the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C., his confirmation was stalled for three years with Democrats charging he was too partisan. Later Senators Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin said Kavanaugh mislead the Senate Judiciary Committee about his involvement in the Bush administration’s interrogation and detention policies after September 11th. What has reignited the debate is an email that has surfaced suggesting that Kavanaugh helped prepare then Attorney General John Ashcroft’s testimony to Congress on monitoring communications of terrorists. Kavanaugh has denied any role in the discussions of treatment of detainees or enemy combatants, but Democrats say the email proves his involvements and are saying he mislead the committee during his confirmation hearings for the D.C. Circuit. According to Politico, “Durbin and Leahy pointed to a 2007 Washington Post report indicating that Kavanaugh had participated in a conversation about whether Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s swing vote, would uphold the constitutionality of the Bush administration’s decision to deny legal counsel to Americans deemed enemy combatants to a charge that Kavanaugh had perjured himself.” These issues are sure to come up during the September confirmation hearings and be a major point of contention.
What hasn’t gained much notice are signs that Kavanaugh may very well side with Betsy DeVos on a number of educational issues. DeVos has a record of pushing for private school vouchers, undermining civil rights protections, and defending for-profit schools known to have deceived student borrowers. (See our Education blogs, Look for the helpers and Adrift or right on course?) Kavanaugh may be just what DeVos has been looking for to push her agenda. As an attorney in Florida, Kavanaugh defended Governor Jeb Bush’s school voucher program that the Florida Supreme Court found unconstitutional. He once praised Justice Rehnquist’s opinions upholding private school vouchers and tax deductions for private school tuition. Not to mention, Kavanaugh once applauded Rehnquist’s saying in a speech that a wall of separation between church and state is “based on bad history.” There are several related cases that could be sent to the higher court, that if confirmed, Kavanaugh would oversee.
Another concern is the NRA’s support for the Kavanaugh nomination, which many fear could lead to arming teachers in schools, something the Trump administration supports.
As was mentioned above, Kavanaugh’s thinking may be closely aligned with DeVos’. In a ruling while on the D.C. Circuit Court in 2016, Kavanaugh argued that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which would safeguard student borrowers, is unconstitutional. Kavanaugh also ruled against a disable student trying to get services in a D.C. school and has shown signs that he is skeptical of affirmative action.
All of these examples show a close alignment with DeVos’ agenda. They also show that the fight for Kavanaugh’s confirmation is not going to be a pretty process, and putting it on the “rocket docket” won’t ease the tensions. Kavanaugh may be the poster child for right wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society (See our Justice blog: Rubber stamp), but opponents like New York Senator Chuck Schumer say,
“Republican efforts to make this the least transparent, most secretive Supreme Court nomination in history continue. They seem to be more frightened of this nominee’s record and history than any we’ve ever considered.”
posted by Amy Levengood