Sen. John Thune
Every vote that I cast in the U.S. Senate, whether it’s on a substantial piece of legislation or a minor procedural motion, is important and helps me fulfill the oath that I took when I assumed this office. Few votes, if any, though, match the gravity that goes with providing my constitutional advice and consent on nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Once confirmed, Supreme Court justices serve for a lifetime, which is why these votes are so consequential.
Now that the president has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a well-qualified and mainstream jurist, to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Senate will follow regular order, which will allow senators time to meet with him, review his record, and determine how they will ultimately vote on his nomination. Having considered the nominations of more than half of the current justices on the Supreme Court, I’m not new to this process, and I’m humbled to have the opportunity to participate in it once again.
The process for considering Supreme Court justices is a unique intersection of the three branches of the federal government. The head of the executive branch chooses a nominee, the upper chamber of the legislative branch provides its advice and consent, and the nominee, if confirmed, goes on to sit on the judicial branch’s highest court.
The qualifications for serving in each of these branches differs greatly, though . For example, if someone is running for Congress, it’s important to know where they stand on the public policy issues of the day and how they’ve voted in the past or how they might vote in the future. If someone is being considered for a judgeship, though, particularly a seat on the Supreme Court, I’m most interested in two things: is he well-qualified, and does he understand the proper role of a judge, which is to call balls and strikes, not rewrite the rules of the game.
Judge Kavanaugh checks both of those boxes. He’s eminently qualified. He graduated from Yale Law School, clerked for Justice Kennedy, and he’s spent more than a decade on one of the most powerful circuit courts in the nation. And from what I’ve seen so far, Judge Kavanaugh isn’t interested in legislating from the bench. He checks his opinion at the door, and he interprets the law and the Constitution as they are written – not how he would have written them.
While I was hopeful this process would rise above partisan politics, it doesn’t seem likely, unfortunately. For example, one of my Democrat colleagues issued a statement that he’d vote no on the president’s nominee – before the president even announced who he would nominate. How can we have a constructive debate when so many of my colleagues are using “no” as their starting point?
Some of my colleagues, many of whom are still unable or unwilling to accept the 2016 election results, might be more interested in scoring political points than learning about Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications, but I’m looking forward to meeting with him and hearing more about his judicial philosophy. As I mentioned, he’s clearly well-qualified, and he seems like a genuine person who’s dedicated to his family and community. I believe that he deserves to be considered on the merits, and I hope my colleagues ultimately do, too.