Last night, President Trump announced his new Supreme Court nominee on national television. In case you missed it, Trump just named Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Anthony Kennedy. Now the real work begins. The United States Senate will now decide Judge Kavanaugh’s fate. But we already know where 95 senators stand. We know that of the 49 Democrats, 46 already decided to oppose the Trump nominee, no matter who it was. And on the other side – with John McCain unable to be present – 48 of the 50 Republicans were solid votes for the nominee, no matter what.
That leaves five senators who are somewhat persuadable. The future of the Supreme Court, controversial cultural issues, and perhaps legalized abortion – is in the hands of Judge Kavanaugh, and therefore in the hands of these five senators.
Three Red-State Democrats
There are several Democratic senators up for re-election in just a few months, who come from states carried by Donald Trump in 2016. These include Joe Tester (Montana) and Claire McCaskell (Missouri). But there are three others, who are most vulnerable to defeat if they don’t support the Trump nominee.
These three are: Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), and Joe Manchin (West Virginia).
Each of these has a complex relationship with President Trump. They try to find a balance between never supporting Trump (which would alienate their voters) and always supporting Trump (which would alienate their party). While they voted for Judge Gorsuch last year, their votes didn’t really matter, as he had the full support of the Republican Caucus. But this time, their votes will matter.
Two Moderate Republicans
Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) both voted against Trump in his battle to kill the Affordable Care Act. Both are pro-choice Republicans. Collins is most at risk to the president, as she represents a moderate/liberal state, unlike Alaska, which is about as conservative as it gets.
It is certain that both Collins and Murkowski will question the new nominee hard on the subject of abortion. And it is equally certain that Judge Kavanaugh won’t take the bait. Then the two Republicans will have to decide which way to go – knowing they likely hold the future of the Supreme Court of the United States firmly in their hands.
We are betting that Judge Kavanaugh will win confirmation. Why? Because there isn’t enough time for President Trump to get another nominee approved before the midterm elections. Therefore, it is likely that Trump did not nominate someone who he wasn’t sure he could get through Congress.
But this will be interesting. Forget about the Senate – and watch the senators. For the next generation, the future of the Supreme Court of the United States will rest in the hands of five people – Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski.
The funny thing is that these five senators represent five of the smallest states in the country, with a combined population of about 11.2 million, or three percent of the total population of the United States. But that is what we have come down to. The future of the Supreme Court now rests in the hands of five people, who represent just three percent of America.