Support first, homework later

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller may wish he had waited for the Senate probe of Brent Kavanaugh before giving the Trump supreme court nominee his support.

On Monday evening, July 9, Heller attended Donald Trump’s announcement of Kavanaugh’s name at the White House, then Heller sent out a news release later that same evening. It read in part: “Judge Kavanaugh has a record of adherence to the Constitution and has demonstrated a commitment to interpreting the law—not making it. I expect the U.S. Senate to conduct a fair, thorough confirmation process, and I look forward to meeting with the nominee.”

He did not explain how he knew to characterize Kavanaugh’s record as “adherence to the Constitution,” since he had not had time to research that record yet.

Note that in sentence one Heller endorses Kavanaugh, then in sentence two calls for a “thorough” confirmation.

It quickly became known that Kavanaugh, in In re Aiken County (2013), had found that the president of the United States must pursue approval of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, even if Congress has not approved money for that pursuit.

During the Obama administration, President Obama wrote budgets which did not include funding for the congressionally-approved dump. And Congress failed to add the money back into the budget. In his ruling, Kavanaugh wrote that “the President may not decline to follow a statutory mandate or prohibition simply because of policy objections.” He did not address where the president should obtain money for continuing the dump project that Congress had not appropriated.

Heller, a dump opponent who has sworn to keep the dump out of Nevada, subsequently met with Kavanaugh and could have taken the opportunity to express reservations about the nominee. Instead, he restated that he was “supporting Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.”

By contrast, Nevada’s other senator—Catherine Cortez Masto—responded to the Kavanaugh nomination by issuing a statement listing what she expects of a justice and then ended, “I plan to meet with Judge Kavanaugh in the coming months and will review his qualifications thoroughly.”