‘Sparks will fly’ at Senate confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

Kavanaugh will be questioned for 17 hours, or more, about the conservative views he espoused in more than 300 opinions and dissents over 12 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

His rulings and opinions include:

  • On abortion, Kavanaugh dissented from his court’s ruling last year that allowed an undocumented teenager in federal custody to get an abortion. He cited Supreme Court precedents under which he said: “the government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion.”

During his confirmation hearing for the circuit court in 2006, Kavanaugh said he would “follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully. … It’s been reaffirmed many times.” Two weeks ago, he told Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, an abortion-rights supporter whose support is crucial, that he considered the 1973 decision “settled law.”

But in a speech last year, Kavanaugh heaped praise on the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, citing among other things Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe. Rehnquist, he said, “stated that under the court’s precedents, any such unenumerated right had to be rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people.”

  • On gun control, Kavanaugh dissented in 2011 from an appeals court ruling that upheld a District of Columbia ban on semiautomatic rifles. Under the Supreme Court’s precedent in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 – with Kennedy in the majority – Kavanaugh said the ban was unconstitutional.

As someone who grew up in the District of Columbia when it was plagued by guns, drugs and gang violence, Kavanaugh indicated he was conflicted on a policy basis, but “the law and the Constitution … compel the result.”

  • On health care, Kavanaugh dissented in 2011 from an appeals court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act but only on procedural grounds. He said the law’s mandate that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty to the Internal Revenue Service could not be challenged before any payment was made.

“History and precedent counsel caution before reaching out to decide difficult constitutional questions too quickly, especially when the underlying issues are of lasting significance,” he wrote. “After all, what appears to be obviously correct now can look quite different just a few years down the road.”

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