What Kavanaugh’s confirmation would mean
Thursday was a very good day for Brett Kavanaugh — maybe his best day since being chosen as Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee back in July. Friday was even better, as his confirmation to the court appeared to be sealed with three key senators deciding he’s worthy of being confirmed.
Yes, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) announced Thursday she would vote against his nomination. On that same day, two of the three swing Republican senators — Maine’s Susan Collins and Arizona’s Jeff Flake — praised the thoroughness of the recently concluded FBI investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
Tea leaf readers saw the broadly supportive comments from that duo as a sign that the FBI’s supplemental check on Kavanaugh had a) turned up no corroboration of claims made by Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez and b) provided Kavanaugh with something very close to the 50 senators’ votes he needs to make it to the court.
And on Friday morning, what was once a fluid situation became much more solid: Flake and Collins both voted in favor of Kavanaugh on Friday’s key procedural vote, and announced they would vote to confirm him as well. Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted against Kavanaugh on Friday’s vote, but her vote was canceled out by Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin crossing party lines to give Republicans a 51-49 win.
It appears Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed Saturday by the same vote, putting him on the precipice of the court.
So what would it mean if Kavanaugh is confirmed Saturday? Two main things.
1. Kavanaugh on the Court would fundamentally reshape it in a more conservative direction for potentially decades to come. Lost amid the massive political fight occasioned by the allegations by Ford and Ramirez is the fact that Kavanaugh is without question more conservative than the man he is replacing — Anthony Kennedy. Whereas Kennedy was regarded as the swing vote on the court for many years, Kavanaugh’s ascension would change all that. There would likely be a relatively reliable 5-4 conservative majority on the court.
2. Trump would be a big winner. Circumstances have conspired to hand Trump a major opportunity: To put two justices on the Supreme Court within his first two years in office. The bet that just something like this would happen is why so many conservatives held their noses and voted for Trump. And while he has been deeply unpredictable on all sorts of things, he has been remarkably steady on court picks — nominating people, in Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, who are regarded by conservatives as the right choices. Putting Kavanaugh (and Gorsuch) on the bench would buy Trump a whole lot of goodwill among conservatives as he heads into his 2020 re-election bid.
The Point: There are no asterisks next to the names of the members of the Supreme Court. Whether you got there on a unanimous Senate vote or barely survived, your vote still counts the same. And when that vote is one of only nine on the most important court in the country, with no term limits, it counts a whole hell of a lot.