By State Representative, Leon D. Young
The Senate is called on by the Constitution to provide “advice and consent” regarding presidential nominations of “judges of the Supreme Court.” This is an explicit charge that outlines a clear duty. Yet, hundreds of thousands of pages of relevant records of Brett Kavanaugh’s service to former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney have been withheld by the Trump White House under a bogus claim of executive privilege. Worse yet, the Republican majority on the Judiciary Committee has endeavored to keep troubling information that has been shared with the committee from being openly discussed as part of the confirmation process.
It’s ridiculous to think that vital information may be taken out of public circulation, and its purview, simply by stamping documents “committee confidential.” This bogus ploy by the GOP majority is an affront to the values of openness and transparency that are essential to the work of the Judiciary Committee and the Senate. To constrain the inquiry into an exceptionally controversial nominee (Brett Kavanaugh), the committee majority appears to have been using the “committee confidential” designation (which allows senators to review a document while preventing discussion of the document in a public hearing) to limit the ability of responsible senators to conduct an honest and complete examination of the Kavanaugh nomination.
The controversy in question arose when Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) initially raised concerns related to an e-mail that had been labeled “committee confidential” that sheds considerable light on Kavanaugh’s fitness to sit on the high court that frequently deals with cases that address discrimination. In it, Kavanaugh appeared to express concern, as a White House legal specialist serving during George W. Bush’s first term, about efforts to address circumstances in which “the government was deliberately indifferent to (rather than the cause of) the private discrimination.”
Kavanaugh complained that such initiatives “might suggest an extraordinary expansion of governmental responsibility and liability for private racial discrimination.” Referring to Department of Transportation affirmative action regulations, Kavanaugh wrote in the 2001 e-mail, “The fundamental problem in this case is that these DOT regulations use a lot of legalisms and disguises to mask what is a naked racial set-aside.”
In Addition, Democrats have expressed concern that Kavanaugh would overturn or roll back the Roe ruling, and two key Republican lawmakers–Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska–have said that the issue could be significant in shaping their votes. Reproductive rights activists have vigorously opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination, citing Trump’s claim that he would nominate judges to the court who would “automatically” overturn Roe, as well as Kavanugh’s comment last year that former Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote a dissent in Roe, was Kavanaugh’s “judicial hero.”
It’s safe to say that Kavanaugh, likely, will be confirmed to the court. This is a slap in the face for Democrats and much of the nation; and serves yet another example of Republican hypocrisy. After all, Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, in 2016 so voters could have a voice in the process. Now, months away from another nationwide election that could fundamentally reshape the political power dynamics in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expects to confirm a replacement for the Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring in July, by this fall.
Let there be no confusion: Republicans will do (and say!) anything to advance their political agenda.