Wyoming Delegation Likes Supreme Court Nominee

Sep 7, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh
Credit U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

This week Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faced a grilling in his Senate confirmations hearings, but those hearings haven't garnered many national headlines about his knowledge of western issues.

While the rest of us are confined to watching Kavanaugh perform under the hot lights of marathon hearings and sometimes even hotter questions from skeptical senators, any U.S. Senator can meet with him privately if they want. And both of Wyoming's senators took advantage of that access to the man who is expected to tilt the balance of the high court in a conservative direction. Wyoming senior senator Mike Enzi said he's been impressed with the nominee.

"Uh, an outstanding encyclopedic memory, congenial, well-informed, and a constitutionalist."

As for how he thinks Kavanaugh will rule on western issues? Enzi says the Maryland-native has convinced him he understands issues beyond the Mississippi River.

"No, because he's not allowed to talk about any speculation or that sort of thing. I do know that he knows the west and even knows Gorsuch's mother, who was born in Casper."

Wyoming's junior senator, John Barrasso, also praises Kavanaugh.

As for how Kavanaugh will rule on issues vital to the state's economy and environmental health? Barrasso avoided all specifics, but offered this high praise.

"Well I think he's going to be very good for Wyoming and Wyoming issues because he is somebody that applies the law, doesn't try to legislate from the bench, knows what the words of the constitution say, understands that the constitution is a legal document not a living document built for certainty."

While most Republicans are avoiding how Kavanaugh will rule on issues important to their base, Democrats are eager to discuss his hundreds of thousands of pages of rulings, emails and other writings at their disposal. The number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois is not a fan.

"Well, he consistently rules on behalf of corporations and against the regulatory authority of the government."

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is arguably the nation's leading voice in Congress calling for action to combat climate change. He said Kavanaugh seems like a mere pawn for the oil and gas industry.

"He promises to line up with the Republican majority only 5 to 4 and related decisions that seem to do their best to try to help the big polluters who are in turn big funders of the Republican Party."

Kavanaugh is known for opposing what's been dubbed the administrative state - a theory that contends the executive branch and all the unelected federal workers in it have become too powerful. Whitehouse fears a justice-Kavanaugh will help undo the power Congress has given experts at, say the EPA, to write rules based on sound science.

"I mean there's a reason we set up expert agencies to do this stuff and the forces that they regulate would love to see that expertise disappear and to have a politically tame congress take over those responsibilities and that would be a terrible terrible place for the country to go."

Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration have been focused on winding back control from unelected federal workers. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney said Congress has ceded its lawmaking powers over the years and she's been a part of trying to get some of that power back so she welcomes any allies in the cause.

"We make law and you know we watch administrative agencies too often promulgate regulation that is inconsistent with the law that we have made."

Still, Cheney knew Kavanaugh from back when her dad was the vice president, and has disagreed with some of his rulings. She said she especially disagreed with his District Court ruling that Osama bin Laden's driver should have been given due process.

"Fundamentally, I think that we should not have set up a situation and frankly I don't think we did set up a situation where detainees had the right to due process, where enemy combatants of the United States are enemy combatants and that's how they ought to be treated."

Still, Cheney added that she fully supports Kavanaugh.

"But I tell you that as an example to say I don't agree with everything he's done obviously but I can't imagine anybody who would be a better nominee for this position."

Most all Democrats will be spending the next few weeks trying to do everything they can to derail Kavanaugh's nomination, while Wyoming lawmakers will be doing everything they can to put the 53-year on the Supreme Court for life.