Since there are 51 Republcians and only a majority of the Senate is needed for confirmation, the only thing that could sink the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is if two Republicans oppose it. And the pair whom conservatives and the White House are most concerned about, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, issued statements last night that should provide a sense of comfort.
I’m not expert on legal matters. And I’m not an attorney, and I have the bank account to prove it. But I do know how to read the tea leaves in Washington.
This is Collins’ statement:
Judge Kavanaugh has impressive credentials and extensive experience, having served more than a decade on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. I will conduct a careful, thorough vetting of the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court, as I have done with the five previous Supreme Court Justices whom I have considered. I look forward to Judge Kavanaugh’s public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to questioning him in a meeting in my office.
There are no hints of concern, which she could have added. And Collins, who comes from a family of politicians and is a swamp creature in pretty good standing, notes Kavanaugh’s “impressive credentials and extensive experience.” That is, he’s been hanging around the swamp for quite some time. So that looks pretty good to her.
To be nicer about it, Collins has vast experience and respects others who do as well. As long as Kavanaugh pledges to consider “precedent,” which she says is her key concern – and a sneaky way for her to say she thinks he’ll uphold Roe v. Wade – she will probably back him. And Kavanaugh is going to talk about precedent during his hearings as if it were his favorite uncle.
And here is most of the statement from Murkowski:
I intend to review Judge Kavanaugh’s decisions on the bench and writings off the bench, and pay careful attention to his responses to questions posed by my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary will also review Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications prior to these hearings and issue a rating. I intend to carefully consider that rating, the information obtained through personal meetings, my own review of Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications and record, and the views of Alaskans in determining whether or not to support him.
Again, no hint of anything negative. And note two things here. First, like Collins, Murkowski is emphasizing Kavanaugh’s qualifications, since she suggests she’ll give strong weight to the opinion of the American Bar Assocation, which reviews whether he’s fit to serve. The ABA has rated the last six nominees, including justices Alito and Gorsuch, “well qualified.” No doubt they will do the same for Kavanaugh, since the one thing everyone agrees on is that the veteran judge and Ivy League grad is well qualified.
Second, she also points to the opinion of Alaskans. It’s hard to imagine that people in this heavily Republican state will oppose a mainstream conservative justice.
It will be a rocky road and a pitched battle. But by choosing someone who has worked for years in the swamp – as a judge in Washington and as a Bush administration official and member of Ken Starr’s Whitewater investigative team – and who yet still seems quite conservative, Trump appears to have made a choice that will be approved by the Senate while also galvinizing his conservative base. Pretty smart.