By Stella Pagkas
On Saturday, October 6 Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice in a 50-48 Senate vote after a series of hearings that divided the nation. Kavanaugh will now serve a lifetime appointment on the nation’s highest court. What does this actually mean for America?
There’s now a conservative majority in the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh is replacing Anthony Kennedy, who was often regarded as a swing vote in the Supreme Court when there was a tie between more conservative and liberal justices. However, Kavanaugh is unquestionably conservative, and therefore his confirmation creates a 5-4 conservative majority in the Supreme Court. This is a major victory for President Trump, who is conservative himself.
Kavanaugh will likely oppose gun control. While serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Kavanaugh firmly opposed any form of gun control. During his involvement in the District of Columbia v. Heller case, which concerned an individual’s right to firearms under the Second Amendment, Kavanaugh dissented against limits to the Second Amendment, writing, “A ban on a class of arms is not an incidental regulation … it is equivalent to a ban on a category of speech.” As he views the right to bear arms as a fundamental freedom, Kavanaugh’s confirmation likely means that there will be little change in national policies regarding gun control for the time being.
Roe vs. Wade may be in jeopardy. Roe vs. Wade is the 1973 case in which the Supreme Court ruled state regulation of abortion rights to be unconstitutional. Because of this case, abortion is currently legal in all fifty states, though it is not easily accessible everywhere. However, many speculate that Kavanaugh will join the four other current Supreme Court Justices who are Pro-Life. Of the late Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, one of the two Justices to vote against Roe vs. Wade, Kavanaugh stated that Rehnquist was “not successful in convincing a majority of the justices in the context of abortion either in Roe itself or in the later cases such as Casey… But he was successful in stemming the general tide of freewheeling judicial creation of unenumerated rights that were not rooted in the nation’s history and tradition.” With this statement, Kavanaugh revealed that he does not view abortion as a constitutional right, and thus he may move to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Same sex marriage may be called into question. During his hearings, Judge Kavanaugh declined to directly answer questions regarding gay marriage. However, Kavanaugh worked for and stood by former president George W. Bush as he supported a proposed amendment that would define marriage as “a union between one man and one woman” thereby outlawing same sex marriage. Though Republican party leaders have chosen not to look into records regarding Kavanaugh’s contribution to anti- gay marriage legislature during the Bush presidency, to many it seems apparent that Kavanaugh supports the movement to make same sex marriage illegal.
There may be new limits on the Environmental Protection Agency. Unlike many members of the Trump administration, Kavanaugh does believe that humans have caused global warming. He once told a federal courtroom, “The earth is warming. Humans are contributing.” However, this does not necessarily mean Kavanaugh will support the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In past cases, Kavanaugh has been wary of the EPA amassing too much power; he will only support policies if Congress explicitly gave the EPA that power. In theory, this is a somewhat neutral stance, but in practice it most often results in a vote against EPA actions. This was evident during the Obama’s presidency, in which Kavanaugh opposed three major cases regarding the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.
This is a turning point in American politics. Whether or not you support Judge Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court confirmation was a decisive moment in American politics. It was a triumph for the Trump administration and a major power move for conservatives, which will greatly impact politics in the future. We can expect to see more conservative, traditional interpretations of the law, and the progressive policies of recent years may be called into question. This, in turn, will likely spark liberal backlash and protest. Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice and his right wing views make him someone to watch, and one thing is certain: American politics will only become more polarized.