WASHINGTON — Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said he is pleased with President Donald Trump’s pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“I’m very pleased with the selection of [Judge] Brett Kavanaugh,” Lott (R-Miss.) told TMN in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I’ve actually already voted for him when he was confirmed (as an appellate judge) in 2006.”
Lott added: “I thought he (Kavanaugh) was the best of the candidates from the get-go but I was concerned because of these 300 opinions that he’s written and the fact that some of the media immediately started attacking him that President Trump would back away and say: ‘Well he may be the best but he might be difficult to get confirmed,’ but he (Trump) went forward with it and that impresses me.”
Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination at a White House news conference on Monday night.
Kavanaugh, 53, sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He was appointed to that position by President George W. Bush in 2006.
The nominee likely faces a contentious confirmation battle.
Republicans occupy 51 Senate seats. Democrats occupy 49 seats. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is battling brain cancer and has been absent since last December.
Hours before Kavanugh’s appointment some Democrats said they would not support any of the candidates on a White House list that included 25 names.
Lott said nominees should be judged on the basis of merit rather than political ideology.
“I do think that the Senate should be forward-leaning in trying to approve presidents’ nominees unless something comes out that is unethical or really unacceptable,” he said.
Lott said former GOP Senator and fellow Mississippian Thad Cochran imparted that philosophy upon him.
Lott said during his nearly two decades in the Senate he voted for every Supreme Court nominee except Justice Stephen Breyer.
When asked about Trump’s request to lower the threshold for breaking a filibuster from 60 votes to 51 votes, Lott said he is opposed to the rule change.
“I still get very squeamish when it comes to talking about doing away with the filibuster or doing away completely with the 60-vote rule,” he said. “But I do think we’ve reached a point where the Senate has become dysfunctional and some things need to be done.”
Lott suggested possibly doing away with the Motion to Proceed (MTP). Fifty votes are required to approve a MTP and begin debate on a bill. Lott also suggested lowering the threshold necessary for the adoption of the motion.
Lott is senior counsel with the D.C. lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs. He served in the Senate from 1989-2007. Lott was Majority Leader from 1996-2002. He previously served as both Senate Republican Whip and House Republican Whip.