Michigan's Stabenow, Peters raise concerns about Kavanaugh's record

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Judge Brett Kavanaugh his Supreme Court nominee, in the East Room of the White House.

Washington — Michigan's Democratic senators are raising concerns about federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh a day after President Donald Trump nominated him for the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Trump announced his pick late Monday, 10 days after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he planned to retire at month's end after 30 years on the high court.

Kavanaugh, 53, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 2006 and previously worked in the White House under President George W. Bush.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said Tuesday she has "serious concerns" about Kavanaugh but intends to review his full record and thoroughly evaluate his nomination. 

"Based on his past decisions, I am deeply concerned that he would roll back women’s access to reproductive health care, make it harder for Michigan families to get affordable health coverage, particularly if they have a preexisting condition, and weaken enforcement of our environmental laws, like our clean water laws that protect our Great Lakes," Stabenow said in a statement. 

Stabenow voted no on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit in 2006.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said he has a number of questions about Kavanaugh's record but that he would continue to vet his background before making a final decision. 

"Certainly, I have some immediate concerns. I’m concerned about some of his opinions on environmental issues — clean air, clean water issues, particularly given the crisis in Flint," Peters told reporters on a call.

"He’s not been very open to allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to put in protections. With the upcoming updates to the Lead and Copper Rule, I'm concerned about what that may mean to protect populations from contamination." 

Peters flagged Kavanaugh's ruling last year on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, finding that the independent agency's single-director structure was unconstitutional.

Peters also said he's worried about Kavanaugh's rulings "that undermine health care for people in this country and particularly women."

Kavanaugh arrived on Capitol Hill on Tuesday accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence to begin meeting with senators, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"I think the president made an outstanding nomination. We look forward to the confirmation process, which will unfold in the next few weeks," McConnell said, according to a pool report.

McConnell did not respond to a question about whether Democrats can be convinced to support the nominee.

The lobbying campaign for and against Kavanaugh began soon after Trump's announcement. 

The White House sent an email to industry promoting Kavanaugh as a "pro-business" pick for the court, according to a Politico report.

“Judge Kavanaugh protects American businesses from illegal job-killing regulation,” the White House email said in part. 

“Kavanaugh helped kill President Obama’s most destructive new environmental rules” and has “led the effort to rein in unaccountable independent agencies."

Liberal groups decried Kavanaugh as an "extreme" choice who could deliver the swing vote to overturn precedents including Roe v. Wade, leaving the legality of abortion up to individual states.  

"If Judge Kavanaugh was to be confirmed, women’s reproductive rights would be in the hands of five men on the Supreme Court. That’s not what the women — or the men — of America want," New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who leads Senate Democrats, said Tuesday on the Senate floor. 

Right to Life of Michigan called on Stabenow and Peters on Tuesday to vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the high court, with President Barbara Listing arguing that Kavanaugh's record "shows fairness in applying the law as written."

"The only reason Sens. Stabenow or Peters could object to his nomination is because they don't believe he'll rule according to their wishes," Listing said in a statement.

"Judges exist to interpret the law as written, not cheat voters and elected officials out of their responsibilities. The job of U.S. senators is to thoroughly vet judicial nominees, not block them because they aren't biased enough."