Rand Paul could represent the deciding vote on whether to confirm President Trump’s recent nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.
Kentucky’s junior Republican senator has said he’s undecided about whether to vote in favor of Kavanaugh, citing concerns with the federal appeals court judge’s rulings on privacy issues.
During a forum in Louisville last week, Paul said he was “very worried” about Kavanaugh’s decisions in favor of broad government power to collect data about citizens without a warrant.
“Kavanaugh ruled that national security trumps privacy and the government should be able to collect all that,” Paul said. “He was basically saying there’s an exception to the Fourth Amendment — and it’s national security.”
Paul occasionally diverges from his Republican colleagues during critical moments, becoming the center of attention during national debates.
Last summer, Paul opposed Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare. He also briefly shut down the federal government earlier this year by delaying a vote on a spending bill and opposed two of President Trump’s intelligence officials — CIA Director Gina Haspel and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
With Arizona Sen. John McCain absent from the Senate due to brain cancer, a Paul-defection could derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation if all Democrats vote against.
Paul said he’s trying to keep an open mind on Kavanaugh, but that he worries that on privacy issues Kavanaugh would “cancel out” the stance of Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee, Neil Gorsuch.
“I have to try to keep in mind as I’m weighing this, it could be a lot worse, it could be a Hillary Clinton appointee. I’ll try to keep all that in perspective,” Paul said last week.
Paul is not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which gets to publicly grill judicial nominees during the confirmation process.
According to the Washington Post, privacy advocates are zeroing in on two of Kavanaugh’s rulings as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In one case, Kavanaugh wrote that the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of Americans “was entirely consistent with the Fourth Amendment” and didn’t amount to unreasonable search and seizure.
After the D.C. Circuit refused to reconsider a decision that police need a warrant to track people’s cars using GPS devices, Kavanaugh dissented, saying people didn’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” on the highway.
Paul has backed off threats to derail Trump’s priorities before. Earlier this year he promised to do “whatever it takes” to prevent the confirmation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but in the end voted in favor of him.