Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court pick, on Sept. 7 appeared on track for Senate confirmation after a four-day hearing in which he avoided any major stumbles even as Democrats tried furiously to derail his nomination.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, asked by conservative host Hugh Hewitt in an MSNBC interview if he had any doubts about Kavanaugh’s confirmation, replied: “None whatsoever.”
McConnell predicted that Kavanaugh, the conservative federal appeals court judge picked by Trump for a lifetime job on the top U.S. judicial body, would be on the Supreme Court when it opens its new term on Oct. 1.
Trump’s fellow Republicans control the Senate by a narrow margin. With no sign of any Republicans planning to vote against Kavanaugh, he seemed poised to win confirmation despite Democratic opposition.
“I think he made a very compelling case that he is one of the most qualified nominees, if not the most qualified, that we’ve seen for the Supreme Court of the United States, and I think I’ve seen 15 of them,” said Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who oversaw the hearing and has served in the Senate since 1981.
Kavanaugh completed two days of lengthy questioning by senators on the night of Sept. 6, keeping his composure under intense questioning by Democrats. Kavanaugh is likely to push the conservative-leaning court further to the right, if confirmed.
In its final day of the hearing, the committee on Sept. 7 heard from outside witnesses testifying for and against the nomination, with protesters again interrupting the proceedings in opposition to Kavanaugh.
Among those testifying were two representatives of the American Bar Association, the leading U.S. professional group for lawyers, who said a panel that rates judicial nominees gave Kavanaugh a “well qualified” rating.
“We gave him the highest rating possible,” said Paul Moxley, head of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.
Trump picked Kavanaugh, 53, to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement in June. After the Judiciary Committee votes on the nomination in the coming weeks, a final Senate vote is expected later in the month.
During his grueling testimony, Kavanaugh maintained a genial demeanor, blunting some of the most aggressive questioning from Democrats seeking to unsettle him. He trod a careful line when it came to Trump. He refused to be drawn into political controversies and avoided comment on matters such as whether a president can pardon himself or must respond to a subpoena or whether he would recuse himself from cases involving Trump.
On divisive issues that could reach the court such as abortion and gun rights, Kavanaugh declined to offer personal views, restricting himself to reciting Supreme Court precedent.
Kavanaugh signaled respect for the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion nationwide, calling it an important legal precedent that had been reaffirmed by the justices over the decades.
In refusing to engage on Trump, Kavanaugh declined even to condemn the president’s persistent criticism of the federal judiciary.
Asked by Democratic Senator Cory Booker on Sept. 5 whether he was picked because of an expectation of loyalty to Trump, Kavanaugh responded, “My only loyalty is to the Constitution. I’m an independent judge.”