U.S. Supreme Court

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After a long day of speeches and vocal protests from the audience Tuesday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee get down to business Wednesday, with a marathon round of questions for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The first day of Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings was long on quarreling, protesting and speechifying. While good theater, there was little actually learned about the man whom President Trump has nominated for a lifetime seat on the nation's highest court.

Here are a few takeaways from Tuesday's often contentious session:

1. Democrats came ready for a fight

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Caitie Switalski / WLRN

With a Republican majority in the United States Senate, the confirmation of conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court may seem inevitable. 

But not to one U.S. Representative from South Florida: Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 

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Updated at 2:05 p.m ET

Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh opened on a contentious note Tuesday, with Senate Democrats raising noisy objections that much of Kavanaugh's lengthy paper trail is still off limits.

The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is often a major event that ripples through American law for decades. But Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, which opens Tuesday, is especially historic because, if confirmed, Kavanaugh is expected to solidify a hard-right majority on the nation's highest court, a majority the likes of which has not been seen since the early 1930s, and which is likely to dominate for a generation or more.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh told her he views the landmark abortion rights ruling Roe v. Wade as "settled law."

That assurance, made during a Tuesday morning meeting in the Maine senator's office that lasted more than two hours, likely goes a long way toward securing a key vote for Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh shares one important view with President Trump: Both are deeply suspicious of any attempt to limit the president's power over executive branch officials.

That view could have important consequences for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election, which includes allegations of collusion and possible obstruction of justice.

There are about 2 million people who work in the federal government. Despite being in charge of the executive branch, the president is limited in the people he can fire.

But could that be about to change?

In Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump has nominated someone to the Supreme Court who believes, as he does, in an expansive view of presidential power.

Could the president hire and fire civil servants at will, for example? That question is at the heart of a concept that likely will come up often at Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings this fall.

Three-quarters of Americans think the Supreme Court should not overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal nationwide, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds.

But that result includes a degree of nuance.

Just 17 percent say they support overturning Roe outright. Another 24 percent say they want Roe kept in place, but they want to see more restrictions on abortion.

What would the U.S. look like without Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide?

That’s the question now that President Donald Trump has chosen conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Al Diaz / Associated Press

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, nominated by President Donald Trump Monday night to the U.S. Supreme Court, has played a pivotal role in some of Florida's most contentious moments, from Elian González to the Bush vs. Gore presidential election.

In the end, after days of highly dramatized deliberation, President Trump had to choose. He had to choose not only between several possible nominees for the Supreme Court, but also between categories of advisers.

In this case, he chose to listen to his lawyers rather than his talk show hosts. And he did not seem overly concerned about the warning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had issued over the weekend about which prospective nominees would be easiest to get confirmed.

President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy was met with swift partisan response from many in Congress, emphasizing the power of a narrow group of uncommitted senators.

A large number of Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., immediately announced that they plan to vote against Kavanaugh.

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

President Trump has chosen Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — often thought of as the second-most-powerful court in the country — to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh is a connected Washington insider with roots in politics in the George W. Bush White House. He has written almost 300 opinions for the D.C. Circuit in 12 years — and he is only 53, which means he could serve on the high court for a very long time.

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