Of all the tumultuous tussles in Donald Trump’s Washington — a government shutdown, abrupt staff departures, and the Russia probe — none perhaps was more bitter, yet more significant, in the long-run than the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
2019 promises more drama — on and off the bench.
The justices are confronting a number of immigration-related legal challenges that could be added to the docket in coming months — and the president sees the high court’s shaky conservative majority as his best shot at upholding a top political and national security priority. This after the lower federal courts have all but eviscerated his immigration agenda.
“This case will be settled by the United States Supreme Court!” Trump tweeted in October about his plans to end birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to unauthorized immigrant parents.
Other pending court challenges where the justices could soon decide include religious freedom, healthcare, gerrymandering, abortion and transgender military members. And it will be the court’s newest member who could have unusual sway over the docket.
“Before he joined, this was a court that was evenly split 4-4 on many of the most intractable constitutional issues,” said Thomas Dupree, a former top Justice Department official in the Bush administration. “I think you’re going to see a concerted effort by the lawyers in these cases to try and pick off that fifth vote from Justice Kavanaugh, making arguments that will appeal to him.”
And after two high court confirmations in Trump’s first two years, the White House is quietly hoping for more.
Despite a recent Senate slowdown, Senate confirmations of the president’s judicial picks overall have been brisk in 2018. Judge Jonathan Kobes took the bench two weeks ago in St. Louis, Trump’s 30th federal appeals court nominee, far ahead of the pace of his recent predecessors.
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