Susan Collins Assures Kavanaugh’s Nomination [VIDEO]
Susan Collins Assures Kavanaugh’s Nomination [VIDEO]
Senator Susan Collins all but assured that Judge Brett Kavanaugh will be the next justice of the Supreme Court today, when she announced that she would vote “yes” to confirm the judge to his new role. And she had quite a few things to say about it.
Senator Collins spoke for nearly an hour, but she detailed the history of this entire national circus, reviewed Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record, and addressed the allegations against him and the lack of evidence. Her entire speech can be watched here:
Susan Collins went all the way back to Alexander Hamilton to point out what she believes her role is as a senator when it comes to “advice and consent.”
Against this backdrop, it is up to each individual Senator to decide what the Constitution’s “advice and consent” duty means. Informed by Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist 76, I have interpreted this to mean that the President has broad discretion to consider a nominee’s philosophy, whereas my duty as a Senator is to focus on the nominee’s qualifications as long as that nominee’s philosophy is within the mainstream of judicial thought.
I have always opposed litmus tests for judicial nominees with respect to their personal views or politics, but I fully expect them to be able to put aside any and all personal preferences in deciding the cases that come before them. I have never considered the President’s identity or party when evaluating Supreme Court nominations. As a result, I voted in favor of Justices Roberts and Alito, who were nominated by President Bush, Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, who were nominated by President Obama, and Justice Gorsuch, who was nominated by President Trump.
Collins talked extensively about how she reviewed Kavanaugh’s judicial record.
Judge Kavanaugh has been unequivocal in his belief that no president is above the law. He has stated that Marbury v. Madison, Youngstown Steel v. Sawyer and United States v. Nixon are three of the four greatest Supreme Court cases in history. What do they have in common? Each of them is a case where the Court served as a check on presidential power. And I would note that the fourth case that Judge Kavanaugh has pointed to as the greatest in history was Brown v Board of Education.
Others have suggested that the judge holds extreme views on birth control. In one case, Judge Kavanaugh incurred the disfavor of both sides of the political spectrum for seeking to ensure the availability of contraceptive services for women while minimizing the involvement of employers with religious objections. Although his critics frequently overlook this point, Judge Kavanaugh’s dissent rejected arguments that the government did not have a compelling interest in facilitating access to contraception. In fact, he wrote that the Supreme Court precedent “strongly suggested” that there was a “compelling interest” in facilitating access to birth control.
There has also been considerable focus on the future of abortion rights based on the concern that Judge Kavanaugh would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. Protecting this right is important to me.
To my knowledge, Judge Kavanaugh is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not merely a practice and tradition, but rooted in Article III of our Constitution itself. He believes that precedent “is not just a judicial policy … it is constitutionally dictated to pay attention and pay heed to rules of precedent.” In other words, precedent isn’t a goal or an aspiration; it is a constitutional tenet that has to be followed except in the most extraordinary circumstances.
The judge further explained that precedent provides stability, predictability, reliance, and fairness. There are, of course, rare and extraordinary times where the Supreme Court would rightly overturn a precedent. The most famous example was when the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education overruled Plessy v. Ferguson, correcting a “grievously wrong” decision–to use the judge’s term–allowing racial inequality. But, someone who believes that the importance of precedent has been rooted in the Constitution would follow long-established precedent except in those rare circumstances where a decision is “grievously wrong” or “deeply inconsistent with the law.” Those are Judge Kavanaugh’s phrases.
Susan Collins referenced the fact that up until now, Kavanaugh was seen largely as a vanilla centrist.
Lisa Blatt, who has argued more cases before the Supreme Court than any other woman in history, testified: “By any objective measure, Judge Kavanaugh is clearly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.” “His opinions are invariably thoughtful and fair….” Ms. Blatt, who clerked for and is an ardent admirer of Justice Ginsburg, and who is, in her own words, “an unapologetic defender of a woman’s right to choose,” said that Judge Kavanaugh “fit[s] in the mainstream of legal thought.” She also observed that “Judge Kavanaugh is remarkably committed to promoting women in the legal profession.”
That Judge Kavanaugh is more of a centrist than some of his critics maintain is reflected in the fact that he and Chief Judge Merrick Garland voted the same way in 93 percent of the cases that they heard together. Indeed, Chief Judge Garland joined in more than 96 percent of the majority opinions authored by Judge Kavanaugh, dissenting only once.
Did she hit a nerve when she mentioned Merrick Garland? You bet.
Susan Collins points out how often Merrick Garland and Kavanaugh have voted together, which sounds like it was aimed to be a little salt in the wound for the left
— Tim Mak (@timkmak) October 5, 2018
And then the senator addressed the allegations against the judge.
In evaluating any given claim of misconduct, we will be ill served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting though it may be. We must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy.
The presumption of innocence is relevant to the advice and consent function when an accusation departs from a nominee’s otherwise exemplary record. I worry that departing from this presumption could lead to a lack of public faith in the judiciary and would be hugely damaging to the confirmation process moving forward.
Some of the allegations levied against Judge Kavanaugh illustrate why the presumption of innocence is so important. I am thinking in particular not of the allegations raised by Professor Ford, but of the allegation that, when he was a teenager, Judge Kavanaugh drugged multiple girls and used their weakened state to facilitate gang rape. This outlandish allegation was put forth without any credible supporting evidence and simply parroted public statements of others. That such an allegation can find its way into the Supreme Court confirmation process is a stark reminder about why the presumption of innocence is so ingrained in our American consciousness.
Hoo boy … Collins is basically setting up Avenatti as the fall guy.
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) October 5, 2018
“How has ‘the resistance’ pissed me off? Let me count the ways.” Susan Collins in this speech.
— Varad Mehta (@varadmehta) October 5, 2018
Senator Collins was quite kind to Dr. Ford in her remarks, but pointed out that she had no corroborating evidence or witnesses. She was not so kind to whoever leaked Ford’s letter.
Christine Ford never sought the spotlight. She indicated that she was terrified to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and she has shunned attention since then. She seemed completely unaware of Chairman Grassley’s offer to allow her to testify confidentially in California. Watching her, Mr. President, I could not help but feel that some people who wanted to engineer the defeat of this nomination cared little, if at all, for her well-being.
Professor Ford testified that a very limited number of people had access to her letter. Yet that letter found its way into the public domain. She testified that she never gave permission for that very private letter to be released. And yet, here we are. We are in the middle of a fight that she never sought, arguing about claims that she wanted to raise confidentially.
But the fact remains, Mr. President, that someone leaked this letter against Professor Ford’s express wishes. I suspect, regrettably, that we will never know for certain who did it. To that leaker, who I hope is listening now, let me say that what you did was unconscionable. You have taken a survivor who was not only entitled to your respect, but who also trusted you to protect her – and you have sacrificed her well-being in a misguided attempt to win whatever political crusade you think you are fighting. My only hope is that your callous act has turned this process into such a dysfunctional circus that it will cause the Senate – and indeed all Americans – to reconsider how we evaluate Supreme Court nominees. If that happens, then the appalling lack of compassion you afforded Professor Ford will at least have some unintended positive consequences.
And at the end, Susan Collins delivered her final word on the subject until her “aye” vote:
Mr. President, we’ve heard a lot of charges and counter charges about Judge Kavanaugh. But as those who have known him best have attested, he has been an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband, and father. Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have far fewer 5-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our Judiciary and our highest court is restored. Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.
This Kavanaugh confirmation battle has definitely been illuminating for both sides. But the surprise really has been watching senators like Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, and Mitch McConnell standing up to the hard left. And now Susan Collins goes on that list. Thanks to her, whom no one would have cited as a conservative stalwart, Brett Kavanaugh will be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court.
Featured image: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) on the Senate floor, October 5, 2018 (image via screenshot)