Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will be one of the deciding votes in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and he’s currently sending mixed signals. Paul has stated that he is undecided on how he will vote and has expressed his concerns about Kavanaugh’s views on the 4th amendment and personal privacy.
In 2015, Kavanaugh was serving as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In an opinion he wrote that “critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this program.”
“I am honestly undecided. I am very concerned about his position on privacy and the Fourth Amendment. This is not a small deal for me. This is a big deal. Kavanaugh’s position is basically that national security trumps privacy. And he said it very strongly and explicitly. And that worries me.”
Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) remains absent and the Republicans barely hold the majority at 51-49. This means, Kavanaugh’s future depends on Paul, a handful of other Republicans who are on the fence and a few red-state Democrats.
Paul has long been an unwavering protector for the civil libertarian community’s views, even when it means going against the Republican party. In 2015, he carried out a 10-hour filibuster on the Senate floor when certain provisions of the USA Patriot Act expired. He held the floor until the act expired, ultimately blocking the Senate from passing legislation that would allow the National Security Agency to collect citizen’s phone records. This gutsy move went against traditional Republican views, and the wishes of his party, and revealed his extreme dedication to the 4th amendment and the right to personal privacy. Kavanaugh’s nomination directly threatens this right.
Paul has a history of voting against his party, such as when he spoke out against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CIA Director Gina Haspel. Paul ended up voting for Pompeo but maintained his opposition against Haspel.
However, with midterms coming up, this could be the Republican’s only chance to confirm a Trump-appointed Supreme Court nominee while they still hold the majority. GOP senators and strategists aren’t positive that Paul would have the guts to go against Trump in such a vital vote. Paul has kept his comments on the vote vague while he makes his decision, often switching back and forth between support and criticism. After criticizing Kavanaugh’s views on personal privacy, he said:
“Wouldn’t you rather have Kavanaugh than Ruth Bader Ginsburg? He’s probably good on economic liberty and overzealous regulation and things like that. So I don’t want to have it sort of in a vacuum. I’ll have to weigh that versus other aspects that he may be a lot better than a Clinton appointee.”
Other Republicans have spoken out signaling a swing vote on Kavanaugh such as Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) who tweeted, “There are many potential nominees with a conservative record on abortion, guns, and regulations. The only question is will the Senate confirm one who is really bad on the #4thAmendment, when so much is at stake in upcoming digital privacy battles.” To add to the uncertainty, pollster Lee Miringoff predicts that more than one Senate Democrat will vote to support Kavanaugh.
Ultimately, the outcome of Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote is seemingly unpredictable and now rests in the hands of Paul. A date for the vote has yet to be set but Republicans are pushing for it to happen before the midterm elections in November.