President Trump has made his decision, and the next person to face the Senate Supreme Court confirmation gauntlet will be D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump made the announcement Monday night, saying the selection of a Supreme Court justice is one of the most important decisions a president can make.
“The Supreme Court is entrusted with the safeguard of the crown jewel of our republic, the Constitution of the United States,” Trump said.
“It is my honor and privilege to announce that I will nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Kavanaugh, age 53, like all of his prospective Supreme colleagues, is a product of the Ivy League. Kavanaugh went to Yale and Yale Law School; every other justice currently serving on the high court got his or her law degree either from Yale or from Harvard.
Kavanaugh would keep the number of Catholics on the high court at five. In fact, the only member of “the Supremes” who isn’t Catholic or Jewish is Justice Neil Gorsuch, who is Episcopalian. He also comes from the D.C. Circuit, which has produced current Justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as the late Justice Antonin Scalia. How’s that for a mixed bag?
He was a favorite of all the right people. Two of Trump’s closest advisers on the issue – Federalist Society vice president Leonard Leo and White House counsel Don McGahn – were both reportedly behind picking Kavanaugh. In fact, Trump’s pick was said to have the “inside track” from the get-go, thanks to his D.C. connections.
If confirmed, Kavanaugh would be be replacing his old boss; like Justice Gorsuch, Kavanaugh clerked for Justice Kennedy back in the day.
He’s been called the “Forrest Gump of Republican politics” by Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., because of his placement at key moments in recent political history. He served on the team of independent counsel Ken Starr during Starr’s investigation of the Clinton White House. He previously worked for Starr during the H.W. Bush Administration. And he also led the investigation into the mysterious suicide of Clinton’s deputy White House counsel, Vince Foster. He worked on W.’s legal team during the hanging chads fiasco; he also represented former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush in a 2000 lawsuit over school vouchers in the Sunshine State. In 2006, President Bush nominated him to the D.C. Court of Appeals.
His confirmation might take a while. Any nominee to fill Kennedy’s vacant seat would face the full scrutiny of the Democratic minority. Kavanaugh’s vetting process will probably take even longer due to the extensive paper trail that he generated during his long legal career thus far, creating a golden opportunity for Senate Democrats to seize upon. This is one reason that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reportedly tried to nudge POTUS away from naming him. Now it remains to be seen whether or not his confirmation can actually be wrapped up by the beginning of the court’s new term in October.
Kavanaugh has drawn concern from many in the conservative movement over some of his past rulings, notably his opinion against a Catholic pro-life organization in a case involving the Obamacare contraception mandate and an opinion that is said to have paved the way for the Supreme Court ruling that “saved” Obamacare itself a few years ago. One senior administration official even called the judge “the low-energy Jeb Bush pick.”
The die is now cast. Kavanaugh, with the confidence of the administration and concern from Left and Right alike, heads to the Senate. Will he succeed Kennedy by October, or at all? Only time will tell.
Chris Pandolfo contributed to this report.