Kentucky senator and alleged yard-work offender Rand Paul has waded into the confirmation fight over Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s pick to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. In an interview with Politico published on Sunday, Paul said that he wasn’t sure whether he could support Kavanaugh because of the potential justice’s views on civil liberties, one of the sometimes-libertarian-ish senator’s central areas of policy interest.
“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,” Paul said. “Kavanaugh’s position is basically that national security trumps privacy. And he said it very strongly and explicitly. And that worries me.”
Kavanaugh does indeed have a long history of siding with the interests of the national-security establishment, brushing off any and all privacy concerns. And with the absence of John McCain from the chamber, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell maintains a 50-49 GOP majority, so, as long as Democrats stick together, he can’t afford to lose even one Republican vote.
But in the case of Paul, it is unlikely that McConnell should be too concerned.
After all, we’ve been here before. Paul made a big show of opposing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s nomination over Pompeo’s warmongering tendencies, vowing to do “whatever it takes” to stop him from being confirmed. But in the end, Paul folded, justifying his “yes” vote with a toothless assurance from Trump that Pompeo agreed with the president that the Iraq War was a mistake, and that the U.S. should withdraw from Afghanistan. (Trump actually supported the Iraq War, and American troops remains in Afghanistan.)
And last summer, Paul complained that the GOP’s “skinny repeal” of Obamacare didn’t go far enough before claiming that the bill counted as a personal win, and voting for its passage after all.
Paul did help kill the Graham-Cassidy version of Obamacare in September before it came to a vote, once again lambasting it as a half measure — though that proposal stood less chance of becoming law than skinny repeal. And he has cast one actual high-profile “no” vote against a Trump nominee: he declined to support Gina Haspel, President Trump’s pick to be CIA director, over her past role in torture.
But neither of those rebellions compare to the prospect of personally torpedoing a Supreme Court nominee who could shift the balance of the court for decades. And Paul has shown that when the chips are down, he is likely to budge.
Later in his Politico interview, the senator mused that despite his concerns, Kavanaugh probably wouldn’t be all that bad.
“Wouldn’t you rather have Kavanaugh than Ruth Bader Ginsburg?” he said. “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.”
In other Rand Paul news, the senator tweeted that he would ask Trump to revoke former CIA director John Brennan’s security status after Brennan accused the president of treason following his disastrous Helsinki summit.
Does this sound like a guy who’s about to openly defy the president?