Mitch McConnell is not wasting any time getting President Donald Trump’s latest Supreme Court pick confirmed.
The Senate Majority Leader was in his home state of Kentucky on Friday, where he told reporters he expects a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination by Oct. 1, the first day of the Supreme Court’s next term.
“The timetable typically for recent Supreme Court justices, if we stuck to that timetable and I intend to, would give us an opportunity to get this new justice on the court by the first of October,” McConnell said.
Kavanaugh still needs to face a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which McConnell predicted would occur in late August or early September. The chair of that committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), however, hasn’t given a specific date for the hearing. The committee sent Kavanaugh a list of questions and forms on a host of issues, including his previous rulings and statements, his health and financial assets, and employment history. Grassley said he submitted the forms after a discussion with the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
“As is the committee’s practice for questionnaires of Supreme Court nominees, these documents have been customized to include sections relevant to the nominee’s own experiences,” a Judiciary Committee aide said. “This questionnaire seeks certain information related to the nominee’s service in the Office of Independent Counsel, work on the 2000 presidential campaign and Florida recount, and time as a law school professor.”
Trump’s previous Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was nominated on January 31, 2017 and confirmed on April 7 — a little over two months later. Justice Elena Kagan, who was nominated by President Barack Obama on May 10, 2010, was confirmed on Aug. 6, 2010 — nearly three months later. So the quick turnaround from Kavanaugh’s nomination to confirmation is not out of the ordinary.
Three Senate Democrats up for re-election voted for Gorsuch in April — Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. They may vote for Kavanaugh as well, but as my colleague Ryan Saavedra points out, that could put them in a tough position of having to choose between getting re-elected and being accepted by party leadership.
Three Republican senators claim to be on the fence about Kavanaugh, though Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska did not voice any concerns about the nominee at a GOP conference meeting on Wednesday. Republicans may have to worry about Rand Paul of Kentucky, the third undecided vote, because a single GOP defection could end Kavanaugh’s chances, as Republicans have only 50 voting senators due to Sen. John McCain’s absence (he is in Arizona being treated for brain cancer).
Republicans only need a simple majority after having removed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, following the precedent set by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who removed the filibuster from lower court nominees under Obama.