Hero or Vil­lain? Trump’s Supreme Court pick Ka­vanaugh is in for a fight

Yuma Sun - - NATION / WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — To hear Repub­li­cans tell it, Brett Ka­vanaugh is a skilled and well-re­spected judge who reveres the Con­sti­tu­tion. To Democrats, he’s a threat to women’s re­pro­duc­tive rights and the Obama health care pro­gram.

It’s likely to be­come the most tur­bu­lent con­fir­ma­tion fight for a Supreme Court jus­tice in years, with Ka­vanaugh al­ready be­ing cast as a hero or vil­lain.

Here’s a look at the am­mu­ni­tion both sides will use ahead of the vote in the Se­nate, where he’ll need a sim­ple ma­jor­ity to spend a life­time on the na­tion’s high­est court:

HIS INSIDER STA­TUS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump may rel­ish his sta­tus as an out­sider, but Ka­vanaugh is any­thing but.

The 53-year-old Yale-ed­u­cated ap­pel­late court judge was born in Wash­ing­ton D.C., aided ar­gu­ments for Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s im­peach­ment, and worked at the White House un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

Ka­vanaugh still lives in the D.C. area, rais­ing his kids in the Mary­land sub­urbs just miles from the White House.

That insider sta­tus can help Ka­vanaugh win over the Wash­ing­ton elite and se­cure enough Se­nate votes to avoid an em­bar­rass­ing loss for Trump. But Democrats will cast Ka­vanaugh as part of the same Wash­ing­ton “swamp” Trump vowed to drain.

Both sides will be por­ing over Ka­vanaugh’s some 300 le­gal opin­ions in his 12 years as a judge for the U.S. Court of Ap­peals District of Columbia Cir­cuit, not to men­tion his le­gal ar­ti­cles and speak­ing en­gage­ments.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND ABOR­TION

There’s a record num­ber of women rais­ing their hands for pub­lic of­fice in re­cent months, putting a fo­cus on fe­male em­pow­er­ment in an era of #MeToo.

That may have been on Ka­vanaugh’s mind late Mon­day when the fed­eral judge seemed to go out of his way to praise his “in­spir­ing” wife and “spir­ited” daugh­ters, and told the story of his mother, a teacher-turned-prose­cu­tor who “over­came bar­ri­ers” to be­come a trial judge.

“I am proud that a ma­jor­ity of my law clerks have been women,” Ka­vanaugh added.

But Democrats say noth­ing short of Roe v. Wade is on the line and have cast Ka­vanaugh as a far-right judge who threat­ens women’s re­pro­duc­tive rights. It’s un­clear what ev­i­dence there is for that, other than Trump’s prom­ise to ap­point anti-abor­tion judges.

In his 2006 con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing to be­come a fed­eral judge, Ka­vanaugh told the Se­nate, “I would fol­low Roe v. Wade faith­fully and fully” be­cause it’s “bind­ing prece­dent” that has been “reaf­firmed many times.”

At the White House Mon­day, Ka­vanaugh in­voked the value of le­gal prece­dent again, say­ing, “a judge must in­ter­pret the Con­sti­tu­tion as writ­ten, in­formed by his­tory and tra­di­tion and prece­dent.”

Ka­vanaugh dis­ap­pointed so­cial con­ser­va­tives in a 2017 case in­volv­ing a preg­nant teenage im­mi­grant in fed­eral cus­tody who wanted an abor­tion. He sup­ported re­leas­ing the girl to a spon­sor, where she could ob­tain an abor­tion if she chose to do so and leave the gov­ern­ment out of it.

HEALTH CARE

If Democrats can con­vince vot­ers in red states that Ka­vanaugh is a threat to Obama-era health care, they might be able to peel off the one or two GOP votes needed to sink Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion.

The fo­cus is on GOP Sens. Su­san Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Nei­ther faces re-elec­tion this year, and both are cen­trists who’ve backed abor­tion rights and helped block their party’s 2017 ef­fort to re­peal former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care statute.

One case likely to draw at­ten­tion is Ka­vanaugh’s 2015 dis­sent­ing opin­ion on the health care law’s con­tra­cep­tives man­date. Ka­vanaugh sided with a re­li­gious group that ob­jected to hav­ing to no­tify their in­surer or the fed­eral gov­ern­ment if they wanted an ex­emp­tion.

The Af­ford­able Care Act is “wildly pop­u­lar and nec­es­sary in the red­dest of states,” said Se­nate Demo­cratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, in an in­ter­view Tues­day on MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe.”

“If the Amer­i­can peo­ple come to be­lieve this court would over­turn women’s re­pro­duc­tive free­dom and the ACA, we would get a ma­jor­ity of votes,” he added.

PRES­I­DEN­TIAL IM­MU­NITY

This is­sue may not get as much buzz as abor­tion or health care, but it’s prob­a­bly the one that’s di­rectly rel­e­vant to Trump. The pres­i­dent has faced al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for ob­struc­tion of jus­tice in the Rus­sia elec­tion med­dling in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Trump also has sug­gested he could par­don him­self.

In 2009, Ka­vanaugh floated the idea that pres­i­dents should be im­mune from crim­i­nal and civil charges while in of­fice be­cause of the pres­sures of lead­ing the na­tion.

Congress, he wrote in The Min­nesota Law Re­view , should pass a law that would tem­po­rar­ily pro­tect the pres­i­dent from both civil suits and crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion. Bill Clin­ton, for ex­am­ple, “could have fo­cused on Osama bin Laden with­out be­ing dis­tracted by the Paula Jones sex­ual ha­rass­ment case and its crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion off­shoots,” Ka­vanaugh wrote.

“If the Pres­i­dent does some­thing das­tardly, the im­peach­ment process is avail­able,” Ka­vanaugh wrote.

That line of think­ing would be use­ful to Trump, who is un­likely to face im­peach­ment so long as Repub­li­cans con­trol Congress.

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