Supreme Court Nominee List Shortens to Mostly 'Identical' Candidates

July 6, 2018

By Christian Smith

No matter which judge President Donald Trump chooses from his Supreme Court shortlist, they will all have a similar impact on America's highest court, says UC-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen.

"They're all very conservative," Hasen said of federal judges Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, and Amy Coney Barrett, whose names are most often cited as being at the top of the president's list to fill the seat being vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"They're all likely to be on the same side on issues involving abortion, on issues involving voting rights, on issues involving affirmative action. The kinds of things where Justice Kennedy was the swing justice, all three of these are likely to be pretty much the same."

Judging from the comments of TV pundits and news reporters, the betting seems strong that Trump will wind up choosing Judge Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge who sits on the District of Columbia circuit. Hasen says picking Kavanaugh would make sense because "he's very much like Neil Gorsuch," Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, who, like Kavanaugh, also has "very well respected Ivy League pedigree."

The eventual nominee will only need 50 votes to be confirmed, thanks to rules adopted by Senate leadership in 2017. Vice President Mike Pence would serve as the tiebreaker if the votes are split.

Two Senators who could make or break any of these nominees' chances are Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Both are pro-choice Republicans, which means the question of overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case establishing a woman's right to have an abortion, will likely take center stage in the confirmation hearing process.

President Trump is expected to announce his nominee in a prime-time ceremony Monday night.

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