The Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh, 53, to the Supreme Court on Saturday, where he could easily serve for more than two decades and change how the nation’s laws are interpreted. He replaces centrist conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired this summer.
Here’s where Kavanaugh, who was a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit for 12 years, stands on some hot-button issues:
Roe v. Wade and abortion rights
During his first round of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh said he views Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, as “important precedent of the Supreme Court” that has been “reaffirmed many times.” Yet he declined to say he would not vote to reverse Roe, saying that such a vow – on any case – would violate judicial norms.
He also defended a dissenting opinion he wrote last year when the full DC Circuit allowed a 17-year-old to end her pregnancy over objections from the Trump administration.
In his dissent, Kavanaugh wrote the Supreme Court has held that “the government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion.” He wrote that the high court has “held that the government may further those interests so long as it does not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.” He said the majority opinion was “based on a constitutional principle as novel as it is wrong: a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in US government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand.”
Overall, his testimony reinforced his past writings suggesting he would permit the government to more strictly regulate abortion, for example, with additional requirements that could delay the procedure or stiffer rules for physicians who would perform it.
Trump has long vowed to appoint justices who would reverse Roe and allow the states to determine whether abortion should be legal. Kennedy had been a swing vote in favor of abortion rights.
Executive branch authority
During his confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh declined to elaborate on his views on executive power or protections for a president who might face an investigation and subpoena.
When Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California asked Kavanaugh if a sitting president could be compelled to respond to a subpoena, he declined to offer his views. “I can’t give you an answer on that hypothetical question,” he said.
In a 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, Kavanaugh had written that “Congress might consider a law exempting a President – while in office – from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.” In the same article, however, he noted, “If the President does something dastardly, the impeachment process is available.”
Agency power and government regulation
Kavanaugh has demonstrated a tendency toward suspicion of, rather than deference to, regulatory agency interpretations of federal laws.
“It’s all about the statute you write,” he emphasized to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, noting he would not impose new requirements – on businesses, for example – that Congress had not made explicit. That view, as Klobuchar noted, can limit regulatory safeguards on the job, environmental rules and consumer protection.
Kavanaugh’s views on government regulation may be best exemplified by his dissent in the case of a killer whale that attacked a SeaWorld trainer.