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St. Joseph News-Press (Op-Ed): President, Senate working to shape courts for decades

September 06, 2018

One of the most important legacies a president can leave is the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court issues decisions that have far-reaching impacts on everything from individual liberty to the economy.

Last year the Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and soon the Senate will put another well-qualified jurist, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, on our nation’s highest court.

During my meeting with Judge Kavanaugh, he and I had a good discussion about his judicial philosophy and how it would guide his decision-making process on the Supreme Court. Based on our conversation, along with his outstanding judicial record and legal background, I believe Judge Kavanaugh is the right choice to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

More than 300 opinions and over 166,000 pages of materials from Judge Kavanaugh’s time in the executive branch are available for public review, making this is one of the most transparent confirmation processes of any Supreme Court nominee. The full Senate will have an opportunity to consider Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination after his confirmation hearings, and I’m confident he’ll be sworn in later this year.

Once Judge Kavanaugh is sworn in, President Trump will have filled two Supreme Court vacancies with judges who, in their early 50s, could go on to serve two to three decades after the president leaves office. The late Justice Antonin Scalia, for example, served on the court three decades after he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy served 30 years as well. Both of the Reagan appointees served for years after President Reagan’s death.

President Trump is also on track to leave a lasting legacy on the U.S. Circuit Courts, which play a vital role in our constitutional system of government. Circuit court judges sit on the courts just below the Supreme Court and are appointed to lifetime terms. Because only a small fraction of cases decided by circuit courts are taken up by the Supreme Court, the makeup of circuit courts has a significant impact on the law. In the past year alone, circuit courts have issued more than 36,000 decisions, compared to just 69 for the Supreme Court. Circuit courts can set precedents on a wide range of issues, including religious liberty, regulatory reform, and the 2nd amendment.

Senate Republicans have already confirmed 26 circuit court judges since President Trump took office, the most by this point in any presidency. The president’s judicial nominees now make up one out of every seven circuit court seats. With 12 remaining vacancies on the circuit court, President Trump has additional opportunities to shape our judicial system for years to come.

The historic progress Senate Republicans have made in confirming President Trump’s well-qualified judicial nominees is one of the most important accomplishments of this administration and Senate. I look forward to supporting Judge Kavanaugh as his confirmation process moves forward, and I’ll continue working on the other important issues facing our nation, like combatting the opioid epidemic, strengthening workforce development, and more.

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