With plans already set to announce his selection to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy during a prime time event Monday night at the White House, President Donald Trump stirred Washington into a weekend tea-leaves reading fever, as lawmakers in Congress and legal experts zeroed in on a handful of possible picks for the U.S. Supreme Court.
“One of the most important decisions a President will ever make is the decision to nominate a Justice to the United States Supreme Court,” the President said in his weekly address, which was focused on his selection.
“Judges are not supposed to write the law, reinvent the Constitution, or substitute their own opinions for the will of the people,” the President added, as he vowed to repeat what he said was a very solid choice of Justice Neil Gorsuch for an opening on the High Court last year.
As the President and Vice President had dinner at Mr. Trump’s New Jersey golf club on Friday night, reporting was focused on three appeals courts judges as the front runners – Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, Brett Kavanaugh of Maryland and Raymond Kethledge of Michigan.
Along with the President, Vice President Mike Pence had met all three of those candidates in recent days as well.
The pros and cons expressed by Republicans might be best summed up like this:
Barrett is seen by many as the best pick for more conservative activists in the party, but there is fear that she would also draw the loudest opposition from Democrats. Also, she has the least amount of court experience.
Kavanaugh is rated as a solid choice, but some wonder if he is just like Chief Justice John Roberts – in other words, conservative, but not the extra dose of conservatism that many relish in the next Justice.
Meanwhile, Kethledge is being treated like the race horse that’s getting the ‘smart’ money just before post time – as Republicans see someone with a solid conservative record who is not as likely to have an extraordinarily controversial confirmation hearing.
Also in the mix is Thomas Hardiman, a federal appeals court judge from Pennsylvania, who was nearly chosen by Mr. Trump last year. All four get high marks from conservative legal experts, though the ratings varied across Washington.
While Republicans waited for the President’s pick, Democrats were also wondering who the choice would be, knowing they start out this confirmation battle without enough votes to block Mr. Trump’s nominee.
“The stakes for winning back a Democratic Senate majority have never been higher,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).