BY ANNA HASSON ’21 AND ANNA SHORTRIDGE ’19
Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, which lasted four days and were packed with demanding questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, concluded on Friday, Sept. 7. Several activist groups protested the event; the groups opposed his nomination for a variety of reasons. Many Republicans, however, are hoping to confirm his nomination as soon as possible.
The hearings shed light on what a potential Kavanaugh career would be like in the Supreme Court. Senators asked him about several hotly contested issues, such as abortion policy. He mainly stuck to referencing precedent as he discussed these issues. When asked by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California if he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, he said: “As a judge it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By ‘it,’ I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, [have been] reaffirmed many times. Casey is precedent on precedent.”
The right to own firearms was another frequently discussed topic throughout the hearings. “Again, this is all about precedent for me, trying to read exactly what the Supreme Court said. And if you read the McDonald case...There are millions and millions and millions of semiautomatic rifles that are possessed. So that seemed to fit common use and not be a dangerous and unusual weapon,” he said during a confirmation hearing on Sept. 4.
Arguably the most timely topic that was discussed in the hearings was the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Kavanaugh was asked if he would hold President Donald Trump accountable if Trump was charged with collusion or obstruction of justice. But for the most part, Kavanaugh refused to answer hypothetical questions pertaining to this scenario.
Some members of the Mount Holyoke community have been following the hearings. “My response to the Kavanaugh hearings is that he has demonstrated that he is incapable of holding a position so critical to the progress of the U.S. government,” said Abby Bridgers ’21. “I agree with what many have said: his decision to not shake the hand of a Parkland father speaks to his honorability,” she said. “Kavanaugh’s confirmation would be a threat to the reproductive health of women and our right to choose.”
Professor Adam Hilton, a visiting lecturer in the politics department, believes otherwise in regards to the potential threat against Roe v. Wade. “I think Judge Kavanaugh’s views on reproductive rights reflect the prevailing consensus within conservative legal circles. That is, outright overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision is best left off the agenda,” he said. “That’s because opponents of reproductive rights do not actually need to overturn Roe in order to limit its effectiveness.”
Most recently, on Sept. 16, Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist at Palo Alto University in North Carolina, reported an incident of alleged sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh that took place during a high school party in the early 1980s. She and Kavanaugh may testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, Sept. 24 — the initial Kavanaugh vote was scheduled for Sept. 20, but was delayed by the Committee.
Kavanaugh has issued two statements denying Ford’s allegation. The most recent, issued on Sept. 17, read the following: “This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making the accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”
In addition, through a letter sent to the committee on Tuesday evening, Ford’s lawyers requested that an FBI investigation of the incident take place before the hearing. “A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan matter, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions,” the letter read.