Remarks from two GOP senators considered "questionable" in their support of the president's Supreme Court nominee lend some hope that the Republican majority in the Senate may be able to confirm Brett Kavanaugh without any help from Democrats.
On Monday night, President Trump nominated DC Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is vacating at the end of this month. The GOP leadership in the Senate hopes to complete the confirmation process in time for the high court's next session that starts October 1.
Two moderate Republican senators – Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) – on Tuesday voiced that they have some level of comfort with Kavanaugh, at least more than they would have had with others under consideration. That comes after both of them indicated, in the lead-up to Trump's announcement, that they couldn't be counted on to vote for the president's nominee.
"It will be very difficult for anyone to argue that he's not qualified for the job. He [Kavanaugh] clearly is qualified for the job," Collins told Politico. "But there are other issues involving judicial temperament and his political, or rather, his judicial philosophy that also will play into my decision."
Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate – but Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) isn't expected to vote due to medical issues that make it difficult for him to travel to Capitol Hill. But three "Trump state" Democratic senators are facing tough re-election battles (Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana) and are feeling pressure from their constituents to vote for Kavanaugh.
The potential 'swing vote' – Kavanaugh ... or Roberts?
Matt Barber, co-founder and general counsel at Christian Civil Rights Watch, is convinced the future of Supreme Court decisions will be exciting if Kavanaugh is confirmed. He points to a speech Kavanaugh made to the American Enterprise Institute last year.
"... In that speech he was praising Chief Justice [William] Rehnquist's dissent in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and the subsequent 1992 Casey decision that effectively affirmed this phantom right to abortion," he tells OneNewsNow.
Barber argues that Kavanaugh, if given the opportunity, would be the swing vote in overturning Roe, which legalized abortion nationwide. Roe v. Wade isn't the only ruling from the court that found a right in the Constitution that Barber says doesn't exist. "As a textualist, I have no doubt that a Justice Cavanaugh – if Obergefell and the gay marriage issue ever come up again – that he would be the fifth deciding vote to overturn the Obergefell decision," he suggests.
As for religious freedom, Barber says Kavanaugh has a 100-percent rating in decisions he has written, so Barber has guarded optimism about Kavanaugh as he faces a grueling process and a lot of liberal opposition to confirmation as a justice.
Despite Barber's optimism, Brad Dacus – founder of Pacific Justice Institute – admits he has some concerns about Kavanaugh.
"There are still some uncertainties out there as to how he might rule on Roe v. Wade, how he might rule on other questions and issues dealing with LBGT rights versus religious freedom," Dacus shares. "But that said, overall he has the foundation where we can expect responsible decisions even on those issues down the road" – should they make it to the Supreme Court level.
The attorney says without question the high court will be moving further to the right when it comes to respecting the Constitution and the First Amendment. "This is definitely a solid step in the right direction," he says, "and therefore I expect those who do wish for the Constitution to be protected and respected to be avid supporters of Judge Kavanaugh for this position on the Supreme Court."
Dacus adds that Kavanaugh is further to the right than Chief Justice John Roberts – and for that reason he's convinced that Roberts will become the swing vote on 5-4 rulings.
Editor's note: Image of Sen. Susan Collins, et al. above is from a March 2018 news conference in Washington, DC.