Political News

What Kavanaugh's confirmation would mean

Posted October 4, 2018 7:31 p.m. EDT

— Thursday was a very good day for Brett Kavanaugh -- maybe his best day since being chosen as Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee back in July.

Yes, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) announced she would vote against his nomination. But two of the three swing Republican senators -- Maine's Susan Collins and Arizona's Jeff Flake -- praised the thoroughness of the recently concluded FBI investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. (More on what all the swing senators said on Thursday below.)

Tea leaf readers saw the broadly supportive comments from that duo as a sign that the FBI's supplemental check on Kavanaugh had a) turned up no corroboration of claims made by Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez and b) provided Kavanaugh with something very close to the 50 senators' votes he needs to make it to the court.

To be clear: This is a very fluid situation. The first big vote -- to end debate on the nomination -- comes Friday. If that succeeds, a final vote on confirmation will be Saturday. Until that first vote is in the books, it's a dangerous proposition to draw too many conclusions about What It All Means.

Still! Kavanaugh appears on the precipice of the court. He's closer tonight than he's been, politically speaking, in weeks.

So what would it mean if Kavanaugh got the 50 votes he needed tomorrow and then again Saturday? Two main things.

1.  Kavanaugh on the Court would fundamentally reshape it in a more conservative direction for potentially decades to come. Lost amid the massive political fight occasioned by the allegations by Ford and Ramirez is the fact that Kavanaugh is without question more conservative than the man he is replacing -- Anthony Kennedy. Whereas Kennedy was regarded as the swing vote on the court for many years, Kavanaugh's ascension would change all that. There would likely be a relatively reliable 5-4 conservative majority on the court.

2. Trump would be a big winner. Circumstances have conspired to hand Trump a major opportunity: To put two justices on the Supreme Court within his first two years in office. The bet that just something like this would happen is why so many conservatives held their noses and voted for Trump. And while he has been deeply unpredictable on all sorts of things, he has been remarkably steady on court picks -- nominating people, in Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, who are regarded by conservatives as the right choices. Putting Kavanaugh (and Gorsuch) on the bench would buy Trump a whole lot of goodwill among conservatives as he heads into his 2020 re-election bid.

The Point: There are no asterisks next to the names of the members of the Supreme Court. Whether you got there on a unanimous Senate vote or barely survived, your vote still counts the same. And when that vote is one of only nine on the most important court in the country, with no term limits, it counts a whole hell of a lot.