WASHINGTON - U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faces a day of questioning Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he has already told members his philosophy is that judges should interpret the law and not make the law.
Those words were part of the opening statement he gave Tuesday at the start of the confirmation process that President Donald Trump hopes will result in Kavanaugh becoming the ninth member of the Supreme Court.
Senators are expected to raise issues such as abortion, affirmative action, executive power and the conflict between religious beliefs and gay rights as they try to determine whether they believe Kavanaugh should join the court.
Protesters and calls to postpone
The proceedings got off to a raucous start Tuesday with Democrats trying to postpone the hearing and loud disruptions by protesters in the crowd, drawing insults from some of the senators.
Kavanaugh sat for nearly seven hours, listening to Republicans and Democrats speak for and against his joining the court before he finally got his chance to address the panel.
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“The Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution,” Kavanaugh said. “A good judge must be an umpire — a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy.”
He said during his 12 years as a federal appeals judge, he decided more than 300 cases.
“I have ruled sometimes for the prosecution and sometimes for criminal defendants, sometimes for workers and sometimes for businesses, sometimes for environmentalists and sometimes for coal miners.”
In each case, Kavanaugh said, he followed the law and did not let any personal or policy preferences get in his way.
“I am a pro-law judge,” he declared.
Hearings to last days
The nomination hearing is expected to last several more days, during which Democrats will likely try to portray Kavanaugh as someone too tied to Trump and who will push a conservative agenda on the high court. Republicans are expected to try to paint the nominee as an independent thinker and a principled jurist. Wednesday, the hearing is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 UTC).
Kavanaugh’s Republican supporters say he is one of the most qualified jurists ever to be considered for the nation’s highest court.
They pointed to endorsements from fellow judges and Kavanaugh’s legal associates, liberals and conservatives, including a number of women.
Democrats say they have a lot of misgivings about Kavanaugh’s pledge to be nonpartisan, saying he has a history of conservative political activism. They said they fear he may rule against a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. And, at a time when President Trump is facing his own legal troubles, Democrats are concerned about Kavanaugh’s views on executive authority. Kavanaugh has argued that presidents should be free from civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution and investigations while in office.
The matter could be significant to Trump if the high court is called upon to render judgment on matters arising from special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia-related investigation into the Trump administration and several civil lawsuits pending against Trump.
If he is approved by the panel, his nomination goes to the entire Senate, where Republicans will hold a very slim 51-49 majority when Republican Jon Kyl fills the seat of the late Arizona Senator John McCain.
So far, no Republicans have said they plan to vote against Kavanaugh.
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