“President Trump has made a superb choice,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement Monday. “Judge Brett Kavanaugh is an impressive nominee who is extremely well qualified to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. … His judicial record demonstrates a firm understanding of the role of a judge in our Republic: Setting aside personal views and political preferences in order to interpret our laws as they are written.”
Collins sent out her own positive statement, too—a welcome sign for White House officials anxious to have Kavanaugh confirmed ahead of the midterm elections. “Judge Kavanaugh has impressive credentials and extensive experience,” Collins said. “I look forward to Judge Kavanaugh’s public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to questioning him in a meeting in my office.” Murkowski, meanwhile, stayed neutral in her statement: “While I have not met Judge Kavanaugh, I look forward to sitting down for a personal meeting with him,” she said. “I intend to review Judge Kavanaugh’s decisions on the bench and writings off the bench, and pay careful attention to his responses to questions posed by my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Trump also appeased the likes of Fox News personalities Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. On his show Monday evening, after the announcement, Hannity applauded Kavanaugh’s credentials and read from the judge’s past speeches on federalism. “He really does revere the Constitution,” Ingraham echoed on her own program. “This has been such an incredible night.”
For Republicans, the consensus marks a gratifying departure from the internecine tensions that have crippled their party in recent years. This presidency has spawned many a think piece on how a pseudo-populist ideology has engulfed the GOP, but when it comes to the Supreme Court, Trump has governed as any traditional Republican, selecting justices that have even George W. Bush raving. “President Trump has made an outstanding decision in nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” the 43rd president said in a statement. The Bushes have generally been critical of Trump, but Kavanaugh served in senior roles in the second Bush White House.
The warm statements appear to be another clear sign that the party apparatus—and, perhaps even more significantly, its donor network—will remain loyal to Trump, even as his stances on immigration and trade drift further and further from GOP orthodoxy.
“As long as he sticks to safe picks for scotus, he’ll never really lose the support and money of the party,” said a GOP operative involved in key Senate campaigns, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Yet “safe picks” have been almost entirely antithetical to this presidency. Resentment toward so-called elites—Republican or Democrat—in many ways fueled Trump’s victory. As a result, he staffed his White House with officials outside the traditional roster of GOP policy and administrative heavyweights—officials like Stephen Miller, who, as my colleague McKay Coppins argues, revel in “public outrage and anger.” Often, Trump seems to make decisions more with his detractors in mind than his supporters.