U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., met Monday afternoon with federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. In doing so, Manchin became the first Democratic senator to have a face-to-face conversation with Kavanaugh.
Give Manchin credit for his stance of being undecided on whether to vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Many Democratic senators have made it clear they will not vote for him, simply because he was nominated by the president.
Manchin has said he is concerned about how Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would vote in health care-related cases. Specifically, the senator is concerned about how a high court ruling would affect health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Mountain State residents.
That worry is understandable. A senator must make his constituents’ best interests a top priority.
But in the long run, it is Kavanaugh’s position on how the court should function, not on any single issue, that matters.
Some liberal justices see the court as a sort of super-legislature, able to use its rulings to make new law. For them, it is their personal preferences, not the plain language of the Constitution, that matters.
But the nation’s founders never intended that. Legislative authority is to rest in Congress, they believed. They took care in establishing the checks-and-balances system that apportions authority among the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
In the long run, a Supreme Court that confines itself to deciding the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress — and not to supplementing and sometimes supplanting that body’s work — serves all Americans best.
Kavanaugh’s record and his public pronouncements make it appear he believes that, and would serve as a steward of the Constitution, not a justice eager to rewrite it according to personal whims.
Let us hope that during his meeting with Manchin, Kavanaugh made that perfectly clear.
That, the long-term reliability of the court, not Kavanaugh’s personal preferences on specific issues, should be what guides Manchin’s vote.