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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Kavanaugh Set for Final Confirmation Hearings

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Amid an evening of four testimonies from Brett Kavanaugh and at least 24 staff-level witnesses, it’s unlikely that any of them will be able to sway undecided senators. But there will be hours of theatrics before the outcome is clear.

Mr. Kavanaugh, whom Republicans hold in the highest regard, is expected to pass. So is Judge Anthony Kennedy, who announced in the end the other day that he would leave the Court when his term expires next year. This is by design: Given his confirmation record, Mr. Kavanaugh would begin the job after Judge Neil Gorsuch, whose quick ascent to the highest court of the land was designed to demonstrate that Senate Democrats had not the capacity to filibuster nominees.

Mr. Kavanaugh sat and testified about nine hours from beginning to end Friday, and his second set of questions is scheduled for Monday morning.

Mr. Kavanaugh is expected to be confirmed by a narrow margin, because there are at least two undecided senators, Mr. Flake and Susan Collins of Maine. Mr. Flake won praise for his last-minute, behind-the-scenes withdrawal on Thursday night, and Ms. Collins has been pro-business in her views.

Mr. Flake has made clear that he’s moved off the death panel line, speaking as a centrist who wants to defend abortion rights. He also noted that he had considered allegations against the nominee even before others in his party.

On the other hand, a Justice Kavanaugh, even in 2020, would be an ideal ally for President Donald Trump, who is likely to face prosecution in the future, and who has said the Justice Department has effectively violated the Constitution with its tactics. In his writings, Mr. Kavanaugh has sought to reconcile constitutional rights with the erosion of the West, though that might be less important to him than it was before Mr. Trump took office.

Ms. Collins has framed her views on Mr. Kavanaugh as a centrist who will defend abortion rights. But she too has hedged about the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission into the broader questions surrounding the Republican health care law.

The same day Mr. Kavanaugh was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican, announced a new process for the next Supreme Court nominee. A judge would be nominated from the District of Columbia, but he or she would have to appear before the Judiciary Committee, which would hold confirmation hearings, rather than the Judiciary Committee, which would vote on the nominee.

Both approaches will make it less likely that a Justice Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would be able to quickly carry out a written order of the Supreme Court after one of the justices retires.

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