Just the Facts

Five Facts on Brett Kavanaugh's Confirmation Hearing

By Sam Harms
September 4, 2018 | Blog

On Tuesday, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sat for the first day  of hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. If confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh could be a deciding vote on key cases for years to come and would give conservatives a clear majority in the Supreme Court. Here are five facts on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings:

On July 9, President Trump announced he was nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court following the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy

Judge Kavanaugh currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Prior to holding this position, he clerked for Justice Kennedy before serving as assistant to the president and staff secretary for President George W. Bush. Throughout his career, he has been involved in many high-profile legal battles, including working as a top deputy for independent counsel Kenneth Starr in the investigation of President Bill Clinton.  Kavanaugh has a consistent track record as a conservative and his nomination to replace Kennedy, the most moderate voice on the court, has sparked strong push back from Democrats who fear he could decisively shift the court to the right.

Kavanaugh’s hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee began on Tuesday, September 4, with Senate Republicans hoping to get him confirmed by October 1, the start of the court’s next term

The hearing, which included opening statements from the senators and Kavanaugh, followed by several rounds of questions, is expected to last three to four days.  After the hearing, the committee will vote on whether to send the nominee to the full Senate for a vote.  While nominees are typically recommended for a vote, they can be sent to the Senate with different levels of support.  For example, while Judge Robert Bork was approved by the committee for a vote in front of the full Senate, it attached an unfavorable recommendation — one of the primary reasons the Senate ultimately did not confirm him.

Senate Democrats have attempted to use the president’s legal trouble as leverage to postpone Kavanaugh’s hearing

Over the past several weeks President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was convicted on bank and tax fraud, while his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, entered a guilty plea in which he apparently implicated President Trump in fraud and campaign finance violations. As a result, 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the committee’s chairman, asking that he delay the hearing while the president’s legal issues are resolved.  Democrats have suggested that, if confirmed, Kavanaugh could “be called upon to decide whether this President should face investigation or possible indictment for criminal wrongdoing,” which they believe could represent a serious conflict of interest.

Senate Democrats have also argued that the hearing should not be held until after the midterm congressional elections

This argument stems from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) decision to block hearings to on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.  McConnell argued that Obama was in the last months of his presidency and that the voices of the American people should be heard in the 2016 presidential elections.  While the move was unprecedented, McConnell was able to successfully sink Garland’s nomination by postponing hearings until after the election.  While Senate Democrats have invoked similar arguments, their efforts were unsuccessful for two main reasons: Republicans hold the majority in the Senate and President Trump still has two years left in his term.

Finally, Senate Democrats have argued that they have not been able to review tens of thousands of documents related to Judge Kavanaugh’s prior work 

Kavanaugh has spent decades of his life in government, working as both a judge and a top legal aide to President George W. Bush.  As a result, there are more than one million pages of documents that relate to his legal work.  Thus far, a record 480,000 pages of documents have been released to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  However, Senate Democrats have been incensed by President Trump’s decision to withhold more than 100,000 pages of material relating to Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House.  They argue that these papers could reveal important details on Kavanaugh’s views on issues such as torture, detention, and surveillance policies.

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