Notes from Angus: My response to constituent inquiries on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh

To the reader: Below is my response to constituents who have reached out regarding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Earlier today, this note was sent to constituents who contacted my office seeking an email response on this topic; a physical copy is in the mail to those constituents who requested a letter.

In recent years, I have benefited from an amazing amount of personal engagement with Maine people who want to make sure their voices are heard. I often receive a total of 5,000 e-mails, phone calls, and letters each week, and this input is incredibly important to my work in Washington. I believe that when someone takes the time to write or call with a question or comment, I should take the time to get back to them with a comprehensive and meaningful answer. That is why I have a group of bright people on my Washington staff who organize all my incoming messages and help me to research and draft responses. While my other responsibilities keep me from drafting all of my response from the start, I scrutinize each one to make sure that it is no different than if I had written the first draft with my own pen (or, rather, my computer). As many folks already forward and share my responses on common questions and big issues with their friends and family, I am hopeful that by directly publishing some of the most widely distributed responses on my Medium account, I can keep even more Maine people informed on my positions. For more information on my correspondence program, click HERE.

I appreciate having your input on the current Supreme Court vacancy and the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice. As a member of the United States Senate, I take my role of advice and consent on judicial nominations very seriously. Further, I believe that no nomination deserves greater scrutiny and deliberation than one for a seat on the highest court in the land that will likely have ramifications for decades to come. It is my opinion that this may be one of the most — if not the most — consequential votes that we in the Senate will ever take. It is for this reason that I feel it is my responsibility to conduct significant research on Judge Kavanaugh’s record, meet personally with him, and attend his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee (even though I do not sit on that committee).

Let me be clear, though — in the past, I’ve consistently voted against ideologically extreme judges who do not reflect Maine’s values, and I will not hesitate to do so again if my research indicates that Judge Kavanaugh is another such nominee. With this in mind, I approach this nomination with skepticism for several reasons.

First, I am troubled that the President’s search for a nominee began and ended with a list of names supplied by the Federalist Society, a private group partially funded by unknown special interests whose stated desire is to make the courts “unrecognizable.” For the sake of transparency and an effort to maintain the integrity and nonpartisanship of the courts, it has been standard procedure for presidents — regardless of their own party affiliation — to consult with a bipartisan group of senators prior to choosing a Supreme Court nominee. President Obama, for example, consulted with Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle before nominating Merrick Garland in 2016 and President George W. Bush reportedly consulted with 70 senators before nominating John Roberts in 2005. However, President Trump’s published list of candidates was not compiled in consultation with elected officials; instead, it was put forth by an outside group. Judge Kavanaugh, who was included on that list, seems to be the culmination of a process that has eroded many traditional norms on Supreme Court nominations.

Second, the President has made clear, both in the 2016 campaign and after being sworn in, the type of Supreme Court Justice he would seek to nominate with regard to important issues like a woman’s right to choose, the Affordable Care Act, and the limits of executive power. I am inclined to take him at his word that he would find a nominee who meets his criteria, and his standards and mine are vastly different on these topics. I strongly believe that a nominee who is unwilling to uphold precedent on these important matters, and could undo significant progress we have made over the past half-century in a number of areas, is not a suitable candidate for the Supreme Court.

Finally, I am troubled by the apparent reluctance of the majority leadership in the Senate to promptly request materials relating to Judge Kavanaugh’s time serving in the Bush White House. Materials of this kind were made available in the case of Elana Kagan, who had served in the Clinton White House. These materials are clearly relevant in determining this judge’s views on important issues likely to come before the Court; I simply do not feel comfortable casting my vote before these materials are made available.

Long-standing Senate rules dictate that the majority party, of which I am not a member, sets the agenda for committee hearings and votes, and therefore largely controls the schedule on this matter. I remain committed to fulfilling my duty to fully review Judge Kavanaugh’s credentials and will come to a final determination in keeping with my independent representation of Maine people, and will declare it publicly prior to the vote. Thank you for providing input on this important nomination; please be in touch about any other issue I can bring to the Senate’s attention in the future.

Note: I love Medium for its usefulness in sharing my positions with a wide audience; however, my website’s contact page, https://www.king.senate.gov/contact, remains the best way for me to receive and respond to questions and comments from my constituents in Maine.