WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (JULY 9, 2018) (NBC) – President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (July 9) as he aimed to entrench its conservative control for years to come, but the federal appeals court judge faces a tough confirmation fight in the bitterly divided Senate.
While some Democrats promised a stern effort to block the 53-year-old Kavanaugh – who has served 12 years on the most influential U.S. appeals court – Trump’s fellow Republicans control the Senate by a narrow margin and can ensure confirmation if they avoid defections from their ranks.
“The Democrats regard this as a life and death struggle. Many of them believe that the fate of Roe v. Wade may be at stake with this nomination and confirmation and I expect them to come out with guns blazing,” William Galston, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution, told Reuters on Tuesday (July 11).
Kavanaugh has shown conservative credentials on social issues ranging from gun rights to abortion cases, but whether he will overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision legalizing abortion, remains to be seen.
“My hunch is that the core holding of Roe will endure but that a conservative court would find ways to to legalize various sorts of restraints and limitations on that core holding without doing away with the holding altogether,” Galston said.
If confirmed, Kavanaugh would replace long-serving conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement on June 27 at age 81. Kavanaugh’s appointment will not change the ideological breakdown of a court that already has a 5-4 conservative majority, but nevertheless could move the court to the right. Kennedy sometimes joined the liberal justices on key rulings on divisive social issues like abortion and gay rights, a practice his replacement may not duplicate.
“He (Kavanaugh) believes in the constitutional rights and liberties of course that are enumerated in the Constitution and the amendments there too. But whether he believes in the kind of expansive conception of individual freedom that Justice Kennedy espoused is a different question altogether,” Galston said.
Kavanaugh became Trump’s second lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest judicial body in his 18 months in office.