President Donald Trump announced his pick Monday for the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, nominating Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Kavanaugh is an established judge serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit, according to the The New York Times. Trump called Kavanaugh “a true thought leader among his peers,” and “one of the finest and sharpest legal minds in our time.”
The choice likely will spark hot debate in the U.S. Senate, which will need to confirm the nomination before Kavanaugh can fill the Supreme Court seat when Kennedy, 81, retires in summer. Here’s a closer look at Kavanaugh’s views and legal opinions that could financially affect students and consumers in the U.S.
Supreme Court nominee’s views on financial and educational issues
At age 53, Kavanaugh likely would serve on the Supreme Court for decades and act as a deciding vote on many rulings that could help shape the law of the land.
“If confirmed by the Senate, I will keep an open mind in every case, and I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and of the American rule of law,” Kavanaugh said Monday in a speech made while accepting the nomination.
As an appeals court judge, Kavanaugh has authored 300 opinions that act as a track record of his legal opinions and stances on various topics. They provide a window into how he might rule as a justice.
Here’s an overview of Kavanaugh’s opinions on three important issues that could affect Americans’ wallets and education plans.
1. Constitutionality of the CFPB
Kavanaugh authored a 2016 decision issued by the Washington, D.C., circuit court, which asserted that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is unconstitutional.
The CFPB regulates and oversees banks, lenders, and other financial companies to ensure they follow regulations and treat customers and borrowers fairly. This protection has helped 29 million Americans recoup nearly $12 billion from financial service companies, according to a December 2016 CFPB fact sheet.
Kavanaugh’s decision took issue with the structure of the CFPB as an independent agency overseen by a single director with enormous power rather than by “multiple commissioners, directors, or board members.”
Opponents of Kavanaugh’s view, however, said there is over a century of precedence for an independent financial regulatory agency with structures similar to that of the CFPB, reports NBC News.
The decision, which was appealed and upheld by a federal judge in New York, put Kavanaugh among those conservatives who are skeptical of the CFPB and the Dodd-Frank Act, the legislation that created the agency. Meanwhile Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who proposed and helped established the CFPB, said in a tweet Tuesday that the opinion is a sign of Kavanaugh’s “hostility toward consumers.”
If the federal agency’s regulatory authority is diminished continually, it could lessen its ability to protect Americans from unfair financial practices.
2. IRS regulation of professional tax preparers
Criticizing the CFPB is not the only time Kavanaugh has taken a limited view of an agency’s authority to make and enforce financial regulations. In a 2014 decision, he said the IRS doesn’t have the authority to issue regulations for paid tax preparers.
The decision was in response to the IRS issuing requirements that professional tax preparers had to meet to be able to legally prepare taxes, such as completing a certification and doing continuing education. “It might be that allowing the IRS to regulate tax return preparers more stringently would be wise as a policy matter,” he wrote. “But that is a decision for Congress and the president to make if they wish by enacting new legislation.”
His decision upheld another court’s ruling against the IRS regulations, and the certification program ended. This case spotlights Kavanaugh’s track record of favoring limited interpretations of federal agencies’ regulatory power of companies and businesses, reports Fortune. If his rulings as a Supreme Court justice were to match, he might be likely to rule in favor of deregulating businesses rather than protecting their customers.
3. Affirmative action
Another target for the Trump administration has been affirmative action. The departments of Education and Justice recently rescinded guidelines on affirmative action for college admissions, telling colleges to be race-neutral when admitting students rather than focus on diversifying their student body.
How does Kavanaugh fit into the debate over affirmative action? One sign can be seen in an amicus brief he wrote in 1999 for a group opposing race-based affirmative action, according to Politico.
The brief took issue with a Hawaii law that permitted only native Hawaiians to cast votes in elections for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Kavanaugh argued that the law was unconstitutional because it limited voting rights based on race. The Supreme Court ultimately agreed with Kavanaugh’s opinion and struck down the Hawaiian law.
Opponents of affirmative action could take Kavanaugh’s involvement in this issue as a signal that he might rule in favor of limiting affirmative action policies, should any such cases come before the Supreme Court.
What’s next in Supreme Court nomination
The U.S. Senate has to decide if Kavanaugh is the right person to become the next Supreme Court justice. The Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate will have a chance in coming weeks to review the nomination.
A simple majority vote of 51 U.S. senators will be needed to vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court seat. Republicans have 51 seats in the Senate to 49 held by Democrats, which could make the confirmation vote a close decision.
Indeed, senators on both sides have issued statements in support or opposition of the Trump nominee. And Kavanaugh has been meeting personally with senators to discuss his nomination, starting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., CNBC reported.
What you can do
Whether you agree with or oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, you can make your voice heard. The best way is to contact your U.S. senators and share your opinions, questions, and priorities.
You also can get involved in your local elections to support U.S. Senate candidates who share your view of Kavanaugh’s nomination. While confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court seat are expected to conclude ahead of November’s midterm elections, the vote could be a motivating issue for senators who are up for election (or ouster) this year.
If you plan to vote based on the Supreme Court nomination, reach out to your senator who’s up for election and let them know how they can earn your vote.
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