WASHINGTON – Brett Kavanaugh will likely know if he’s the ninth justice on the Supreme Court in early October, according to Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads up the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Grassley told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Wednesday that Kavanaugh’s hearings in front of the Judiciary Committee will take place in September, with a vote on his nomination in early October.
Going by precedent set by previous nominees, Grassley said, it would take 65 to 80-some days from the president’s nomination to confirmation. Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the bench July 9. Grassley said, based on those numbers, it would be possible to confirm Kavanaugh before Oct. 1, when the Supreme Court starts its new fall session. He called that "ideal.” But Grassley said if the Senate can’t confirm Kavanaugh by the start of October, he expects a vote "soon after."
Grassley said it was possible to get the hearings done earlier, but unlikely.
“The point is we need to get this done, and we will get it done early this fall so that we don’t have to worry about it being brought up in the election,” he said. The midterm election is Nov. 6.
Kavanaugh was nominated to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired Tuesday. If Kavanaugh is confirmed he would tilt the balance of the court to the right. Kennedy was nominated to the court by former President Ronald Reagan but his role has been the key swing vote in a variety of landmark decisions.
Kavanaugh is expected to be a more reliable conservative vote and that has been a reason for both sides to rally for and against his nomination. Democrats argue that Kavanaugh could be the deciding vote on critical decisions that could come before the court, including a possible repeal of Roe v. Wade, the ruling that said women have a constitutional right to have an abortion. Republicans want a reliable vote in their column.
The margins for confirmation are tight. Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate and Sen. John McCain of Arizona has been out all of 2018 fighting brain cancer. Republicans need 50 votes to get Kavanaugh across the finish line. Centrist Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are the two critical holdouts Republican leadership is trying to convince. But they're also pressuring a handful of moderate Democrats up for re-election in states that President Donald Trump won handedly in 2016. So far, none of the key moderate senators have said which way they'll vote.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation is contingent upon lawmakers agreeing to limit what they view from his paper trail. There are a record 1 million-plus pages of legal opinions and emails from Kavanaugh's career as a federal judge, White House attorney and assistant to the prosecutor who investigated President Bill Clinton. Democrats are demanding more time to dig through the records while Republicans argue that some of the documents, particularly when he worked as staff secretary to former President George W. Bush, are not relevant.
If confirmed, Kavanaugh will be the second Supreme Court justice President Trump has put on the bench in his first two years in office.