Washington: US President Donald Trump today nominated conservative Brett Kavanaugh as the Supreme Court Judge to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy, triggering an epic partisan war over the court’s future as Democrats vowed to oppose his choice.
Trump picked Justice Kavanaugh from an original list of 25 judges, which also included prominent Indian-American judge Amul Thapar.
Announcing Kavanaugh’s nomination, Trump described the 53-year-old from Maryland, currently a judge in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as one with “impeccable credentials and one of the finest legal minds of our times”.
Kavanaugh’s nomination needs to be confirmed by the Senate, which is bitterly divided over party lines.
Justice Kennedy, 81, had announced his retirement on June 27 after serving the federal judiciary for 43 years.
“Tonight it is my honour and privilege to announce that I will nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court,” Trump said.
“Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications, and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law. Throughout legal circles, he is considered a judge’s judge, a true thought leader among his peers,” he said.
Trump said Kavanaugh was an incredibly qualified nominee who deserved a swift confirmation and robust bipartisan support.
Prior to becoming a judge, he served in the George W Bush administration, first as an associate counsel and then senior associate counsel, and subsequently as assistant to the president and the staff secretary.
While the Republican leadership hailed Trump’s choice, Democrats vowed to oppose his nomination.
“Judge Kavanaugh should not be allowed anywhere near our nation’s highest bench. Let’s be clear: a vote for Kavanaugh would be a vote to rip health care from American families and deny women their constitutional right to make their own health care decisions,” Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez said.
“Brett Kavanaugh represents a fundamental threat to the promise of justice and equality, which is why I am announcing that I will oppose his nomination to the Supreme Court,” said Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris.
House Judiciary Committee Member Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said Trump was taking “swipes at vulnerable communities and hardworking families with every chance he gets”.
“Brett Kavanaugh comes from a roster of extremists approved by right-wing organisations that are committed to pushing a regressive agenda. This appointment is the most momentous in a generation and it will affect historic decisions made for the next half century we can’t let that time be defined by partisan rulings that hurt our communities and strip away our rights,” Jayapal said.
On the other hand, almost the entire Republican leadership stood solidly behind Trump on his nomination, including his bitter critic Senator John McCain.
“In selecting Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy left by Justice Kennedy, President Trump has chosen a nominee with impeccable credentials and a strong record of upholding the Constitution,” McCain said in his endorsement of Trump’s nominee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump has made a superb choice.
Republican leaders firmly believe that Kavanaugh could be instrumental in pitching the ideological makeup of the court to the right and leaving a conservative imprint on the law for a generation. They also see the coming confirmation fight as a chance to galvanise their voters ahead of this year’s midterm elections, where the Republican party’s 51-seat Senate majority is at risk.
Democrats are preparing for what they hope will be a prolonged showdown on Capitol Hill determined to rally in defence of Roe v Wade, the landmark abortion rights decision; LGBTQ rights; and same-sex marriage all areas of the law that they fear could be ruptured by the court.
A graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, Kavanaugh clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Kennedy, and for judges on the Third and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals.
“I am deeply honoured to fill his seat in the Supreme Court,” said Judge Kavanaugh.
“My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written and must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent,” he said.
Praising Trump, he said that throughout the process, he witnessed firsthand the President’s appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary.