The Senate has voted to end debate on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, setting the stage for a vote Saturday on whether to confirm him.
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.”
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.
Senators voted 51-49 for cloture after hearing from Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee.
The Republican senators decried the process that has preceded the votes. “This process has been ruled by fear, and anger, and underhanded gamesmanship for too long,” McConnell said. He called Kavanaugh, whose path to the Supreme Court has been delayed by allegations of sexual misconduct, “stunningly and totally qualified for this job.”
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Schumer said he had doubts about Kavanaugh’s truthfulness, and both he and Feinstein said the FBI investigation of Kavanaugh was severely limited.
The vote to end debate fell along party lines, except for two senators: West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin voted to advance the nomination, while Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski voted not to. Shortly afterward, Murkowski said she would vote against Kavanaugh's confirmation. She told reporters, "I believe that Judge Kavanaugh is a good man," but added, "It just may be that in my view he's not the right man for the court at this time."
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced Thursday afternoon she would vote for Kavanaugh, which left little doubt as to whether he would be confirmed, because, even if every Democrat voted against him, it would result in a 50-50 tie that could be broken by a vote by Vice President Mike Pence.
But all doubt about Kavanaugh’s fate was eliminated when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said after Collins’ announcement that he, too, would be voting for Kavanaugh.
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