By Amelia Parkes
Following Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, President Trump has nominated Kennedy’s conservative former law clerk, Brett Kavanaugh, to replace him. Kavanaugh is a United States Circuit Judge in the Washington D.C. circuit who has worked in the realm of politics for most of his career.
During his nomination announcement, Trump quoted a line from Ronald Reagan: “What matters is not a judge’s political views.” It seems almost intentionally ironic because of his nominee’s political views. This nomination would give the Supreme Court a decisive conservative lean, as Kavanaugh has historically presented Republican party views on political policy and social issues.
Kavanaugh graduated from both Yale and Yale Law School. In addition to once serving as a law clerk for retiring Justice Kennedy, Kavanaugh served as White House Staff Secretary under George W. Bush and as investigator to impeach Bill Clinton under Kenneth Starr.
Kavanaugh’s political connections are deeply-rooted in Republican legal groups that seek to promote conservative ideals. Retiring Justice Kennedy was considered the swing vote on many of the cases that divided the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s appointment could mean that social and legal issues that have recently gained positive traction like gay rights, affirmative action, and women’s reproductive rights might regress. Kavanaugh has stated that he will “keep an open mind in every case”, but that a judge’s role is to “interpret the law, not make the law.” Kavanaugh has declared his focus on translating the law through the Constitution as it is written.
In his past as a judge, Kavanaugh has often ruled against environmental regulations and opposes gun control. Though he offered vocal support to the landmark case of Roe V. Wade, he has also ruled in favor of abortion restrictions in more than one case. He has also written dissenting opinions in regards to affordable health care and women’s access to medical contraceptives.
Trump’s appointment of Kavanaugh not only advances his conservative principles, but creates more support in the Supreme Court for the President as the Russia investigation continues. Kavanaugh has written legal opinions in the past supporting exempting presidents from civil suits and criminal investigations while in office.
Trump’s choice could have serious, generational consequences on the legislation of the United States. Kavanaugh is only 53, which means that if he is confirmed, his service with the Supreme Court could span decades.
Kavanaugh’s Washington status means that Democrats are likely to lose a campaign to block his confirmation, even though Republicans only have a slight majority in the Senate. Senate Democrats have already launched an attack on the nomination, concerned Kavanaugh is an ultra-conservative who will undo abortion rights, dismantle health care, mitigate gun control regulations, and, perhaps the most important issue to both sides, protect Trump from possible impeachment proceedings. However, Kavanaugh’s Ivy League credentials will make it difficult for anyone to argue that he is not actually qualified for the job.