Kavanaugh Confirmation Likely

Oct 6, 2018
Originally published on October 6, 2018 10:50 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We're waiting for the Senate to vote, but Brett Kavanaugh looks to be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judging from official announcements and from a procedural vote yesterday, Senate Republicans have secured the votes they need to confirm him. That is expected to cement a conservative majority on the court.

NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Now we could both name conservative justices - Souter, Stevens, Blackmun, Kennedy - who issued - who joined liberals and progressives on the court. But this confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh could have impact for generations, couldn't it?

ELVING: Oh, yes. We assume the current lineup of five justices, who were appointed by three Republican presidents - two named to Bush and now two by Donald Trump - will be around for some time. And this will be the first time that the court has five members who are alumni of the Federalist Society, who has been, or which has been a growing force on the court for years and a swelling presence on the federal bench at its lower levels. And with the Trump administration and White House counsel Don McGahn, they have truly come into their own.

SIMON: What do we need to know about the Federalist Society, especially as they're going to be more prominent than ever in U.S. life?

ELVING: Well, the group got started at a couple of law schools in the early 1980s. It was a pushback by students and legal scholars - people who were convinced that the court had become too liberal, too inclined to read the constitution to accommodate the outlook and philosophy of a few justices with big ideas about social and political justice.

Members of the society have indicated a desire to revisit some of the landmark decisions of the past two generations, asking the question of whether or not the basis for those decisions was in the Constitution, or whether it was being supplied by somebody's interpretation of the Constitution.

SIMON: And let's underscore - there's nothing remotely secret about this, right?

ELVING: Not a secret society at all. And they've been quite public about their campaign and about their influence within the Republican Party, and about their desire to revisit things like the privacy concept in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion, or even the one person, one vote concept that required state legislative districts to have equal population.

SIMON: If Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation is the culmination of decades of organizing, are Republicans energized to get out to the polls about a month from now, or do many feel mission accomplished?

ELVING: There could be both a feeling of accomplishment and a feeling of opportunity to press further and some resentment over the confirmation process and some of the accusations that were raised and the way they were raised against Brett Kavanaugh. But midterms are more often driven by anger than satisfaction. And right now, polls show a lot of women and younger voters are unhappy with Kavanaugh. And even many Republican women are unhappy with their party. And that could also be a big factor in the midterms.

SIMON: Now it's interesting to me - you point to anger, and that's certainly reflected in the surveys you mentioned. Unemployment is at a 3.7 percent - historically low, about a 40-year low. And yet, polls say about 55 percent of citizens in this country believe America's headed in the wrong direction. President Trump's approval rating is only 43 percent. It used to be, it's the economy's stupid, right?

ELVING: Yes. And a strong economy has overcome a great deal in the past. And it may again next month. But this president is unique, and this administration has given us a unique set of circumstances. It defies precedent and tradition, scrambles traditional alliances and really blows up a lot of coalitions.

And President Trump has several negative factors holding back that approval rating you're talking about. Even when he wins, such as this week, he often alienates. And voters are aware of the drumbeat of investigations and revelations swirling around the Oval Office and around the 2016 campaign and around the Trump family business dealings, including the monumental investigation that was published by The New York Times this past week.

SIMON: And we will, of course, have more on that this hour. NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.