WASHINGTON — Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond blasted President Donald Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, telling members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Brett Kavanaugh would be a threat to civil rights if confirmed to the court.
Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat and the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called Kavanaugh’s record and past rulings on voting rights, affirmative action policies and some criminal justice issues suggest he’d pose a “grave danger.”
But Kavanaugh picked up a glowing endorsement from Louisiana U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Republican said during a conference call with Louisiana reporters that he’s “going to vote happily and proudly to confirm him.”
Fellow Louisiana GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy also came out in support of Kavanaugh after the hearings wrapped up Friday.
"Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications are impeccable and he passed the hearing process with flying colors," Cassidy said, "so I will vote for him without reservation, absolutely.”
Cassidy and Kennedy had both praised Kavanaugh on a number of prior occasions but hadn’t previously pledged to back him, instead saying they'd wait to vet Kavanaugh’s record and hear from the judge during committee hearings.
Kavanaugh sat through four grueling days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kennedy said Friday that he’d read all of Kavanaugh’s law review articles, read hundreds of opinions and heard enough from Kavanaugh to endorse him.
“There’s no question in my mind that he has the intellect to be a Supreme Court justice,” Kennedy said. “He’s breathtakingly smart. I don’t know that I’ve seen anybody with a better command of the law.”
Kennedy predicted that Kavanaugh will eke out of the Judiciary Committee on a strictly party line vote.
Richmond, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, will not have a vote on whether Kavanaugh is confirmed. His appearance before the committee came as Senate Democrats attempt to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
At least two Republicans would need to turn against Kavanaugh to block his confirmation in the Senate, where the GOP holds a 51-49 majority, if Democrats remain unified in opposition. No Democrats have come out in support of Kavanaugh, though several swing-state moderates are seen as potential backers of the nominee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, changed Senate rules to confirm Supreme Court justices on a simple-majority vote last year during the fight to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch after Democrats attempted to filibuster.
Richmond touched on a number of areas where Kavanaugh’s conservative ideology might tip the court. Richmond said Kavanaugh might helped restrict the use of affirmative action in hiring and university admission decisions and allow broader use of controversial police tactics like “stop and frisk” searches.
“Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would fortify a generation of destructive conservative ideology at a time when several historically significant legal challenges will come before the high court,” Richmond told the committee on Friday morning. “As members of the CBC, we cannot overstate what is at stake for African-Americans and communities of color across the nation.”
Richmond focused in particular on a 2012 Kavanaugh opinion in a legal battle over South Carolina’s voter I.D. law, which the Obama administration contended would make it more difficult for blacks to cast ballots. Kavanaugh voted to uphold the law in a decision Richmond called “inexplicably tone deaf” and “inconsistent with reality.”
Richmond also took issue with a statement Kennedy, the Louisiana senator, made during the Kavanaugh hearings earlier in the week. Kennedy said that the U.S. Supreme Court isn’t supposed “to fix this country culturally, economically, socially, spiritually” — but instead leave those issues to lawmakers.
“That logic,” Richmond said Friday, “would mean that African-Americans wouldn’t be able to attend integrated schools, buy a home previously owned by a white person or lodge at certain hotels. In many cases, the high court has acted when Congress had neither the courage nor the will to act.”
Kennedy didn’t direct any questions at Richmond during the congressman’s appearance on Friday but Kennedy did thank Richmond for making an appearance.
“I've known him a long time,” Kennedy said. “Before he became a distinguished congressman he was a distinguished member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. He is a smart guy and a fine American and a good guy, too.”