President Donald Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Democrats are alarmed that he will overturn rulings about abortion and same-sex marriage.
If approved, Kavanaugh would fill the seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement last month.
To be successfully confirmed, Kavanaugh needs 51 votes in the Senate. Republicans currently hold a 51-49 majority, but Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) is battling brain cancer and is unlikely to be present for a vote. Vice President Mike Pence can break a tie, but even a single Republican breaking with the party would hold up the nomination, assuming the Democrats are unanimous in opposition.
Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of nominees along with Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett.
The 53-year-old, who was the White House Staff Secretary under George W Bush, has served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for the past 12 years.
US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on board Air Force One © Eric Thayer‘Generally conservative’ candidates on Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist, nomination coming soon
Favored by many Republicans for his work with Solicitor General Ken Starr to impeach President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, the Yale graduate also appears to have many critics. Some Republicans, as well as the Democrats, view Kavanaugh's previous rulings on abortion and health care cases as way too conservative, claiming that they violate the rights of many people in American society.
“His nomination should be a non-starter for every member of the Senate concerned about the integrity of the special counsel's investigation and worried about the Court undermining the rights of women to make their own medical decisions; civil rights; the rights of Americans to quality, affordable healthcare; voting rights; the rights of workers to organize for better wages and working conditions; and more,” Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) said in a statement on Monday.
Other controversial topics include net neutrality and the judge’s belief that criminal investigations should not involve active presidents, a clear problem for some lawmakers amid Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia.
“President Trump is currently a subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, and any nomination of a Supreme Court justice while that investigation continues is unacceptable because of the clear conflict of interest inherent in the President installing someone who could be the deciding vote on a number of potential issues from that investigation that could come before the Court,” Booker added.
“Democrats in the Senate should use every tool at their disposal to stop Judge Kavanaugh from being confirmed. This is a fight worth having,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) tweeted, expressing what appears to be a widely shared view among lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) claimed that Kavanaugh stands “outside the mainstream” when it comes to dealing with healthcare, executive power, privacy and even gun safety. “We need a nominee who understands that the court must protect the rights of all Americans, not just political interest groups and the powerful,” she tweeted.
At the same time, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Florida) called Trump’s nomination a “shameful effort” to roll back the progress that has been made in the US when it comes to civil liberties.
While Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing will take place in the fall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already warned Trump that his nominee might have a difficult confirmation battle over the other shortlisted candidates.
Yet, following Trump's nomination, McConnell called on his colleagues “to put partisanship aside and consider his legal qualifications with the fairness, respect, and seriousness that a Supreme Court nomination ought to command.”