WASHINGTON — Almost immediately after US President Donald Trump announced federal judge Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court Monday night, Jewish groups and leaders expressed anxiety for what his confirmation would mean for the future of the court and its impact on American life.
“We are concerned that Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record does not reflect the demonstrated independence and commitment to fair treatment for all that is necessary to merit a seat on our nation’s highest court,” the Anti-Defamation League’s chief Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.
“Because he has written and spoken prolifically on many issues of deep concern, we believe his positions merit close scrutiny. These include his demonstrated
Kavanaugh, 53, is a conservative stalwart who currently sits on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. He worked in the George W. Bush White House before becoming a judge, and began his legal career as a clerk for Justice Kennedy. So, too, did Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
With that background, along with his plethora of opinions issued on the federal bench, legal analysts have speculated he would become a firm member of the conservative wing of the court, tilting its ideological balance for at least a generation.
Perhaps the most intense issue that advocacy groups will focus on during the contested confirmation hearings to follow will be whether Kavanaugh may vote to overturn the seminal 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that ruled the right to abortion was constitutionally protected.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, one of the most prominent Jewish members of Congress, indicated that Kavanaugh would reverse the Roe v. Wade ruling if given the opportunity.
“In selecting Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, President Trump has put reproductive rights and freedoms and health care protections for millions of Americans on the judicial chopping block,” he said. “His own writings make clear that he would rule against reproductive rights and freedoms.”
The New York Democrat said he would work to impede the nomination.
“This nomination could alter the balance of the court in favor of powerful special interests and against working families for a generation, and would take away labor, civil, and human rights from millions of Americans,” he said. “We cannot let that happen. If we can successfully block this nomination, it could lead to a more independent, moderate selection that both parties could support.”
Another Jewish member of Congress, Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida, expressed the same consternation as Schumer.
“There is no longer a theoretical threat to Roe v. Wade,” he said. “With this nominee, President Trump fulfilled his campaign promise of nominating justices who are hostile to women’s reproductive rights. If confirmed, the conservative wing of the court — composed of five men — will be poised to strip women of the freedom to make their own health choices and control their own futures.”
The upcoming confirmation battle is expected to be as contentious as one has ever been in American history. President Trump will need a majority of US senators to vote in favor of Kavanaugh to garner his approval. Yet the GOP has a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, with Arizona Sen. John McCain absent while he is fighting cancer.
Two female Republican senators — Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Kurkowski — have said they would be disinclined to vote for a nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade and not treat the ruling as settled law. Both legislators support abortion rights.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been targeting three Democratic senators who are up for reelection in red states that Trump won in 2016, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. All three were invited to the White House ceremony announcing Kavanaugh’s nomination — and all three turned the offer down.
Yet all of them voted to confirm Gorsuch to the high court in April 2017.
At least one US Jewish group conveyed excitement and approval of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
Shortly after Trump announced his selection at the White House, the Republican Jewish Coalition tweeted: “Congratulations to Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his family. @POTUS made another great pick. We look forward to his confirmation!”