Editorial Firm questioning of Kavanaugh needed

September 7, 2018 GMT

The appointment of the ninth Supreme Court justice could affect the most personal parts of American life for decades.

Questioning began this week in the Senate of federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, 53, nominated by President Donald Trump to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been a swing vote on landmark Supreme Court decisions.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, was leading the charge for his party with his opening statement Tuesday and direct questioning Wednesday and Thursday in Judiciary Committee hearings. Though criticized by some Republicans for trying to delay the hearing, Blumenthal is correct in taking utmost care with this important process. It is his duty.

Much is at stake: women’s reproductive health rights, health insurance for those with preexisting medical conditions, and gun safety, to name a few.

Based on his earlier lower court decision, Kavanaugh could be the pivotal fifth vote on the court to overturn the 45-year-old Roe v Wade decision that gave women the constitutional right to seek an abortion. Reversing that decision has been a goal of the conservative right.


Questioned by Blumenthal, Kavanaugh would not say how he would vote should cases in lower courts make it to the Supreme Court. He dodged answering whether he would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, which has made health insurance accessible to many. Twenty states have argued that key provisions in the ACA are unconstitutional, including protection for people with preexisting conditions. It’s no secret that overturning the health care act is a goal of Republicans in Congress.

Blumenthal calmly questioned Kavanaugh about his dissent in the case that upheld the District of Columbia’s ban on semi-automatic weapons, a subject of particular interest in Connecticut.

Though the hearings got off to a contentious start — protestors were removed from the chamber — Democrats were within their right to request a delay because thousands of pages related to Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House as associate counsel were released only hours earlier. That was hardly enough time to review them. The delay was refused.

One of the most consequential lines of questioning by Blumenthal centered on whether Kavanaugh would recuse himself from possible issues of the president’s personal criminal or civil liability.

“We’re in uncharted territory here,” Blumenthal said. “It is unprecedented for a Supreme Court nominee to be named by a president who is an unindicted coconspirator.”

The American people deserve to know what Kavanaugh would do. But he refused to answer, saying it would undermine his judicial independence.

Despite his lack of candor, Kavanaugh is likely to be confirmed with a Republican 51-49 majority in the Senate. The outcome may be forgone, but probing the judge’s decisions and questioning his positions is an obligation of elected leaders.

Sen. Blumenthal, a former prosecutor, represented Connecticut — and the American people — with integrity in his pursuit of answers from the Supreme Court nominee.