U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says that President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court is a threat to consumers and wrong-headed on other issues, including the second amendment, but he stopped short of saying he would not vote to confirm his nomination.
Trump on Monday named Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. As NPR notes, Kavanaugh is “controversial with Democrats because of his role investigating President Bill Clinton as part of the Starr investigation in the 1990s.”
Kavanaugh, 53, serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and once clerked for the justice he is nominated to replace. He was appointed to the federal bench by former President George W. Bush and has written nearly 300 opinions in 12 years.
Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said he will “ask all the important questions on my mind” but would not say whether he would vote against his confirmation.
Still, the Illinois Senator made it clear that if all 49 Democrats in the Senate vote no, then they need only one Republican to vote against Kavanaugh to derail his appointment.
“I jokingly said he’s like Forrest Gump — he shows up at the scene of every political crime,” Durbin said on WBEZ’s Morning Shift on Tuesday. “In the Bush White House, there was hardly an issue that came up that he wasn’t part of.”
If confirmed, Kavanaugh would become the nation’s 114th Supreme Court justice and cement a conservative hold over the high court, a move that could have a dramatic effect on issues like abortion, affirmative action and LGBTQ rights, areas where Kennedy departed from his conservative colleagues.
Below are some highlights from Morning Shift’s interview with Durbin. We also talked to Indiana Senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young for their reactions to Kavanaugh and break down what his appointment would mean for the Supreme Court.
Durbin’s concerns with Kavanaugh
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin: It was an interesting pick and a person I know a little bit about. I was around when he was chosen to be on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and I voted against it. I had serious questions then about his background and political experience.
We’ve seen his record as a judge — 12 years on the D.C. Circuit of Appeals. We know that he consistently comes down on the side of big business over consumers. We know he consistently rules for employers over workers. We know that he consistently finds a way to allow polluters to legally escape their responsibility.
He has some extraordinarily unusual views on the Second Amendment. He criticized the government in Washington, D.C. when they tried to restrict assault weapons and tried to have closer background checks on individuals. He said that went too far. So he has a lot of decisions that we have to look at carefully and he’ll face questions.
Dem’s strategy for the confirmation process
Durbin: I’m the Senate Whip, which means I do the vote count. So I learned all of the skills I need for this job in the first grade — I can count to 60.
Here’s what it comes down to: We have 51 Republican senators, 49 Democrats. John MCCain is in tough physical shape and hasn’t been out to vote in Washington in a number of months. So we realistically start with 50 Republicans, 49 Democrats.
It’s a majority vote that rules. If every single Democrat would vote no on this nominee, it wouldn’t be enough. We need at least one Republican to cross over and join us.
I believe that the American people have the last word in this. If they find that what Judge Kavanaugh represents is not what they want to see in terms of restricting their freedom and privacy in the future, they need to speak up. If enough of them do, I believe a Republican senator may be convinced to join us.
Will Durbin vote no?
Tony Sarabia: Can Illinois residents expect Sen. Dick Durbin to be voting no?
Durbin: Well they can expect me to bring Judge Kavanaugh in and ask all the important questions on my mind.
I have a lot of hard questions to ask Judge Kavanaugh that go back to some conversations we had over 10 years ago. I think I need to ask those questions privately and then again publicly as a member of the Judiciary Committee so there’s a clearer record of where he stands and what his future might be.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview.
GUEST: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
LEARN MORE: Who Is Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Pick For The Supreme Court (NPR, 7/10/18)