Over the summer of 2018, Supreme Court Justice Kennedy retired, prompting President Donald Trump to appoint his second judge to the Supreme Court of the United States so far. He selected Conservative Catholic Brett Kavanaugh, which was a controversial, but not surprising choice. With such a slim Republican majority, Kavanaugh’s pending confirmation will result in a further shift to the political right.
Kavanaugh considers himself a strict textualist, meaning he values context in terms of evaluating laws and the Constitution. He also claims to value humility and empathy—seeing things from the other side of the aisle, as well as stare decisis or precedent. Such priorities would seem to make the perfect candidate for the highest court in the country, however, not everyone is on board with his confirmation.
One concern over Kavanaugh’s confirmation is the future of Roe v. Wade, which was the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationally. As a Conservative Catholic, such concern is warranted from supporters of the right to choose. Those who support keeping options open for women have pressured Kavanaugh to take a solid stance. His reply? As someone who values precedent, it is “settled law.” In reality, whether that means it will go untouched, restricted, or overturned is still unclear.
Other concerns have been raised as well: Where will he side on the Affordable Care Act? Is he conservative enough for traditionalists such as Texas Senator Cruz? More recently, Senate Democrats, especially California Senator Harris, have demonstrated where they stand by pressing the nominee in confirmation hearings on his stance on certain issues and on just how impartial he will be. More recently, a professor from California has come forward with a sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh after her name was nonconsensually publicized. Judge Kavanaugh denied the allegation.
While the president is given the power to appoint new justices, Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution dictates that it is the Senate’s job to vote to confirm the appointee. While it originally called for a ⅗ majority—or 60 Senate votes—it has recently shifted to a nuclear option with the last Supreme Court confirmation (Trump’s pick Gorsuch). A simple majority of 51 votes in late September will likely secure Kavanaugh’s position for the rest of his life and likely a fair portion of ours.