The U.S. Senate is holding hearings on President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh this week. Of course, liberal Democrats will do anything they can to derail the nomination, for fear of the court shifting to the right. Conservatives, on the other hand, are generally supportive of the pick, recognizing that if Kavanaugh is not approved, there will not be enough time to nominate another candidate before the November elections, which could shift the Senate into Democratic hands. So what should we be watching for his week? I see four things.
This will be the main focus of contention. Expect Democrats to try to pin Kavanaugh down on whether he would vote in a pro-life manner. Dawn Leguens, executive vice president for Planned Parenthood Federation of America was clear. “There’s no way to sugarcoat it: with this nomination, the constitutional right to access legal abortion in this country is on the line.”
On the other side, Susan B. Anthony President Marjorie Dannenfelser said that Kavanaugh “is an experienced, principled jurist with a strong record of protecting life and constitutional rights.”
Expect Senator Susan Collins to go hard on this issue, as a pro-choice Republican. The legalized right to take the lives of the unborn remains a party plank for Democrats and liberal-leaning Republicans. So abortion will clearly be the issue that receives the most attention.
2. Religious liberty
In June, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 that a baker named Jack Phillips was wrongly punished for refusing on religious grounds to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. As other potential cases are going through the courts on the extent to which Christian business owners can refuse service on the basis of religious objection, expect dozens of questions to come to Kavanaugh on religious liberty issues.
3. Process complaints
When Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa announced that the committee hearing on Kavanaugh would begin on September 4, Democrats objected over what they viewed as a rushed process. They have since demanded to view documents on past Kavanaugh lower court rulings. While they have received half a million such documents, they insist on more. This is, of course, simply a delay tactic. But expect it to continue.
4. Swing votes
A few senators have yet to play their hand and reveal how they will likely vote on the Kavanaugh nomination. At the top of that list is Susan Collins. But add three red state Democrats to that list: Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), and Joe Donnelly (IN). All three voted for the Gorsuch nomination and are running for re-election this fall.