The politics of filling a vacancy on the United States Supreme Court are familiar. Democrats want to delay in hopes that they can win seats in the midterm election and use that mandate to effectively block Donald Trump’s nominees.
Republicans want to move swiftly toward confirmation, removing the contentious issue from midterm election considerations in hopes that they can then hold onto what they have.
It’s the same contest we see over and over, us versus them, my guy versus your guy.
Yet the few Republicans in the Senate who still care about the historic responsibilities of that body have to be concerned about the revelation concerning the opinions of nominee Brett Kavanaugh when it comes to the always relevant and presently volatile issue of executive power.
This is especially true because President Trump is likely to be the subject of prosecutorial action in the next few months. That means courts will be asked to rule on his activities and as with all such cases, a trip to the Supreme Court is likely.
In 2016, Republicans ignored the candidate nominated by President Obama, the first time in our history that Congress had done such a thing, and they justified the delay by saying that it should not take place until the election cycle had been completed.
Given the investigation into the president, it would seem even more judicious to go a bit slower for detailed hearings on Kavanaugh. Republicans had no trouble leaving the court with eight members for most of 2016. So they certainly should not have any trouble letting the court operate with eight for the rest of 2018.
For most Republicans in the Senate, politics is more important than philosophy or history. Kavanaugh is their guy and they want him in robes tomorrow.
While the nomination has been considered mostly as a referendum on Roe v. Wade, as the crucial decision that could end abortion rights in the 20 or so states just waiting for the Supreme Court to approve restrictions or an outright ban, we now are learning about some other issues that the nominee has addressed, ones that should give all but the most partisan Republicans a reason to proceed more cautiously.
Watergate was not just a scandal that drove a president from office. It was a test of, among other issues, the balance of power among the three branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial. The key ruling among many was the one by the Supreme Court that Richard Nixon had to turn over tapes he had made of discussions in the Oval Office and elsewhere, tapes that eventually left no doubt as to his guilt.
Kavanaugh thinks that the court was wrong, that it did not have the power to compel Nixon to produce those tapes.
Take away the tapes and Nixon serves out his full term. Give a president under investigation that kind of power and who knows what will happen?
Even Republican senators should want to slow down and make sure they understand just what their guy thinks about the very real decisions that this court is going to make in the next few months.