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GOP Judiciary Committee Senator: 'I Don't Want a Hater' for Supreme Court

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) rides the Senate subway June 26, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — A Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, through which the yet unnamed nominee must pass, ruled out voting for any “haters” to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told CNN on Wednesday evening that he believes there will be a vote on a nominee before midterm elections, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed shortly after the justice announced his retirement.

“I think there will be a long confirmation hearing. I hope it’s orderly; I hope everybody has plenty of time to ask questions,” Sen. Kennedy said.

“I know who I’m looking for. I want a cross between Socrates and Dirty Harry. I don’t want a hater. I want a whip-smart man or woman who understands the role of the United States Supreme Court, vis-a-vis Congress and the president,” he added. “I think Neil Gorsuch was an excellent choice. I don’t know if Justice Gorsuch has a twin sister or twin brother but if he does, that’s the kind of person I would look for.”

Kennedy said he doesn’t think of Gorsuch as “a so-called conservative, if some people define that term” and predicted “over the next five or 10 years, you will be very surprised at how Neil Gorsuch votes.”

“But Neil Gorsuch sees his job as looking at a statute and looking at the Constitution and trying to discern what Congress — or in the case of the Constitution, our founders and the ratifiers and the people who voted for the Bill of Rights, meant. He is not the sort of person who is going to make policy on his own. That doesn’t mean Supreme Court justices don’t make policy — of course they do. But they do it within the confines and in the context of a particular case. If you want to be a free-roaming policymaker, you shouldn’t aspire to be a federal judge. You ought to go run for the Senate or the House or president of the United States,” he said. “That’s the kind of justice I’m looking for. Let me say it again, whip-smart, understands the role of the court, is not a hater, will call it like he sees it, will call the balls and strikes, as Justice Roberts once said.”

“That’s the kind of judge I think Judge Kennedy was and that’s who I’m looking for. I don’t care about their politics.”

The GOP senator asserted that Gorsuch hasn’t served on the court long enough for people to see his rulings that might be characterized as not conservative. “And I honestly believe that. I wouldn’t have voted to confirm him had I not,” Kennedy added.

In November, the Louisiana senator became the first Republican to vote against one of President Trump’s federal judicial nominees, giving a thumb’s down to deputy White House counsel Greg Katsas for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, citing the conflict of interest “if on one day he’s representing the president and the next day he’s on the D.C. Circuit deciding cases in which the president is a party.”

Kennedy also ripped the nomination of Brett Talley for a district court appointment even though Talley, whose wife worked as chief of staff to White House Counsel Don McGahn, had never tried a case in a courtroom and reportedly defended the Ku Klux Klan on an online message board. Talley withdrew his nomination in December.

The senator said in November that trying to talk to the White House about vetting of “embarrassing” nominees was “like talking to the wind.”

Kennedy predicted Wednesday a “knock-down, drag-out, in the dirt, bare-knuckle — you know, nose-biting fight” over the eventual Supreme Court nominee.

“But it doesn’t have to be. I hope we have a rational discussion,” he added. “Because this is a decision — this will be one of the most important decisions, if not the most important I will make in the United States Senate.”