The nomination process
The requirement for confirming a new Supreme Court justice is simple: a 51-vote senate majority. This vote will likely take place in September, according to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn. As a nominee, Judge Kavanaugh must undergo a vetting process by the Senate Judiciary Committee. This can take days or even weeks. There are 21 senators on this committee, 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
Luise Gomez of the San Diego Union Tribune provides a helpful summary of this vetting process: “(Kavanaugh) will be called to testify and answer questions from both Republican and Democratic members of the committee — a process that could last one or more days. Next, the Judiciary Committee will set a date for hearings in which colleagues or people who are familiar with his work will testify and say why the nominee should or should not confirmed. Both Republicans and Democrats can call their own witnesses.”
During the hearing, Democrats are expected to grill Kavanaugh about specific issues and his rulings on them, while Republicans are expected to ask about his interpretation of the Constitution. Once the hearings are over, the Judiciary Committee may move the nomination forward to the Senate with either a favorable or unfavorable recommendation — or no recommendation at all.
Given that Republicans hold a 51-member majority in the Senate, plus the tiebreaking vote in Vice President Mike Pence, the political balance of power leans in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The coalition behind Kavanaugh
With Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York promising to oppose Kavanaugh “with everything I’ve got,” it’s clear that the days of bipartisan nominations that saw Ruth Bader Ginsburg confirmed with an easy 93-6 vote are gone. Across the country, lawmakers and groups across the political spectrum are gearing up for a fight.
Shortly after announcing President Trump’s nomination on July 9, the White House set a “66 day” goal for confirming Kavanaugh, noting that the last two Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch, were confirmed in roughly the same length of time following their nominations. Communications officials inside the West Wing immediately began distributing talking points to allies and touting praise from editorial boards, while senior officials and Vice President Mike Pence made local and national media appearances discussing the nominee.
On the right, the New York Times reports that Judicial Crisis Network has already spent $2.4 million and is poised to spend more than $10 million to promote Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, having reserved in the internet domain name ConfirmKavanaugh.com. They plan to use a mix of grassroots efforts and advertising.
Americans for Prosperity has launched a campaign to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, praising him as “extremely well qualified” and a “defender of the Constitution.”
Similarly, the Times reports that socially conservative groups like the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America each plan to spend at least a half million dollars on advertising.
Other groups have more specific strategies for electing Trump’s nomination. The Susan B. Anthony List, which advocates for pro-life policies, commissioned a Tarrance Group poll that found support for Kavanagh’s confirmation from a majority of voters in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and West Virginia (all states that have Democratic senators). Already the group has lined up grassroots news events in Indiana, North Dakota, and West Virginia, as well as digital ads and emails.
The Faith and Freedom Coalition has made Kavanaugh’s confirmation its “top legislative priority,” according to executive director Timothy Head, and is gearing up to spend a million dollars on direct mail, digital ads, texts and emails to target voters across 10 states. Its network in those states includes 15,000 churches and a list of 20 million voters.
The critical senators
Key lawmakers on the fence include Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both of whom favor abortion rights and could take issue with Kavanaugh’s past stances on the issue. On the other side of the aisle, Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are all up for reelection in states Trump won handily. The final wildcard is Republican Senator John McCain, who is battling brain cancer.
Andrew Collins cut his teeth in politics as a congressional campaign staffer during the 2012 election. Since then he has worked in Washington, D.C. as the digital media manager and as a staff writer at the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, and is a recent graduate of the Trinity Fellows Academy (class of ’17). His work has appeared in Politico, US News & World Report, The Chicago Tribune, The Daily Caller, and The Hill. He lives in Seattle, WA.