- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2018

Conservative activists and interest groups are lining up behind their favorites as President Trump nears a decision on his Supreme Court choice — though they say they’ll generally be happy with whoever emerges from Mr. Trump’s short list.

Pro-life activists are particularly enamored with U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, while the head of the American Conservative Union prefers Judge Brett Kavanaugh, another appeals court jurist.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is vociferously pushing for his Republican colleague from Utah, Sen. Mike Lee, to earn a lifetime seat on the high court. And radio show host Hugh Hewitt says President Trump can’t go wrong with Judge Raymond Kethledge, who sits on yet another federal appeals court.

“On the list, there are a number of jurists who would make potentially very excellent justices,” said Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life. “It’s a good problem to have for the president because the reported finalists are committed to the Constitution.”

Mr. Trump is picking from a list of 25 names he compiled during the 2016 campaign and expanded as president. He’s interviewed a number of those candidates in recent days and sources said he’s looking at three in particular: Judges Barrett, Kavanaugh and Kethledge.

The president is slated to announce his pick Monday.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at the conservative National Review, penned an op-ed in Bloomberg, pushing for Mr. Trump to pick Judge Barrett, the only woman among the apparent finalists, especially with abortion rights at the center of the confirmation battle.

“If Roe v. Wade is ever overturned — as I certainly hope it will be, as it is an unjust decision with no plausible basis in the Constitution — it would be better if it were not done by only male justices, with every female justice in dissent,” he wrote.

Judge Barrett was confirmed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October after serving as a law professor at Notre Dame.

“There are certainly reasons why the president might prefer Barrett over perhaps the others. She is not perceived as a Washington insider and that can be very powerful,” said Ms. Foster.

Judge Kavanaugh clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — whose looming retirement at the end of this month created the opening Mr. Trump is trying to fill. Judge Kavanaugh also worked in the George W. Bush administration, and has been on the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia for 12 years, leaving a lengthy record for his fans — and detractors — to scrutinize.

Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, worked with Judge Kavanaugh in the Bush administration and said in an op-ed in The Hill that he’s the logical choice to fill Justice Kennedy’s seat.

He pushed back against some conservative court watchers who said they feared Judge Kavanaugh would follow in the footsteps of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who could emerge as the ideological pivot of the next court and who angered conservatives by writing the crucial decision upholding most of Obamacare.

“Kavanaugh is not another Roberts; he’s another Scalia, Alito, or Gorsuch,” Mr. Schlapp wrote. “In fact, on issues such as reining in the administrative state, he is arguably more conservative than even those three highly regarded justices.”

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who is viewed as a moderate voice by some Trump Republicans, has put his influence behind Judge Kethledge, who was also a clerk to Justice Kennedy. Mr. Hewitt said Judge Kethledge should be easiest to confirm — he was approved to his current post on the 6th Circuit on a Senate voice vote in 2008.

Judge Kethledge’s nomination could also put pressure on Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, from his home state to back the confirmation, Mr. Hewitt said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cruz published an op-ed with Fox News on Thursday, touting the credentials of his colleague Mr. Lee, who he says would excite Republican voters ahead of the November midterms.

“A Justice Lee wouldn’t let activist lower courts distort the meaning of our laws and Constitution in order to impose their left-wing preferences on the nation,” Mr. Cruz wrote. “After all, who knows better that a judge’s job is to apply the law as it is — and not to legislate from the bench — than someone who was previously a legislator himself?”

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