The Senate is poised to send Circuit Court Judge Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, following Sen. Susan Collins' announcement Friday afternoon that she will vote to confirm him.
The Maine Republican defended Kavanaugh's judicial record, characterizing him as an even-handed arbiter of the law, some of whose decisions have angered both liberal and conservative advocates.
Collins' decision -- and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski's announcement earlier in the day that she would vote against Kavanaugh -- means that even if all Democrats voted against Kavanaugh Saturday, it would leave the Senate deadlocked, and Vice President Mike Pence would be able to break the tie. But shortly after Collins spoke on the Senate floor, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said he would vote for Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh, Collins said, "has received rave reviews" for his 12 years as a judge on the D.C. Circuit, "including for his judicial temperament." She also said that there was not enough evidence that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford more than 30 years ago and spoke out for the "presumption of innocence and fairness. Departing from this presumption could lead to lack of public faith in the judiciary, and could be hugely damaging to the confirmation process going forward."
Industry groups have been supportive of Kavanaugh’s nomination. In his 12 years as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, he has generally been skeptical of according federal agencies deference under what is known as the Chevron doctrine. Under Chevron, courts must defer to agencies’ interpretation of the statute – such as the Clean Water Act – if the statute does not directly address the issue in question and the agency’s interpretation is not unreasonable.
“Judge Kavanaugh has a strong record of keeping federal regulatory agencies within their statutory limits,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue said when his nomination was announced. “His opinions reflect a jurist who has thought carefully about federal statutes and America’s broader regulatory structure.”
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh tried to tamp down concerns about his position on government rules.
“I’ve heard it said that I’m a skeptic of regulation. I’m not a skeptic of regulation at all,” he said. “I’m a skeptic of unauthorized regulation, of illegal regulation, of regulation that is outside the bounds of what the laws passed by Congress have said.”
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Environmental groups, however, have strongly criticized Kavanaugh’s record in cases involving the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and other laws. An analysis by William Snape III, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, found that Kavanaugh ruled “against wildlife” 96 percent of the time.
And the environmental law firm Earthjustice, in an analysis of Kavanaugh decisions involving EPA regulations, found that Kavanaugh ruled for “less clean air and water” 89 percent of the time.
After Friday's cloture vote -- which advanced the nomination by limiting debate -- Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said he thought with Kavanaugh on the court, “We’ll get back to looking at the Constitution and trying to limit the federal government’s powers as was intended by the Constitution.” Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Kavanaugh "has never dissented in a case that would weaken environmental protections” and that he “could be the next Scott Pruitt” with a longer tenure in power.
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