"Tonight it is my honor and privilege to announce that I will nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. "
With that statement in the East Room of the White House, President Donald Trump put an end to nearly two weeks of speculation about who he would select to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Calling the selection of a Supreme Court justice "one of the most profound responsibilities of the presidency" Trump said he chose Judge Kavanaugh because he has "impeccable credentials and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law."
During the past 12 years, Kavanaugh has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the nation's second most powerful court, and authored more than 300 opinions. At 53, his resume also includes working at the White House during the administration of George W. Bush and as an aide to Kenneth Starr during the investigation of President Bill Clinton.
Kavanaugh also served as a clerk to the man he may replace. He said he was deeply honored to be nominated to fill Justice Kennedy's seat on the Supreme Court, and that his judicial philosophy is that "a judge must be independent and must interpret the law and not make the law."
When he begins meetings with senators on Tuesday, he said he will tell each one that he will always strive to preserve the Constitution and the American rule of law.
Reactions to Kavanaugh's nomination were swift.
Maine Senator Susan Collins said he has "impressive credentials and extensive experience." Considered a crucial vote during the confirmation process, Collins said she "will conduct a careful, thorough vetting of the President's nominee to the Supreme Court." As a pro-choice Republican, she's under extraordinary pressure to reject anyone who might be considered a threat to the landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion. But Collins has never before rejected a Supreme Court nominee.
Independent Senator Angus King took a more skeptical stance.
“It’s troubling that the President’s search for a potential Supreme Court Justice seemed to start and end with a list of names supplied by an outside group,” King said. "I will thoroughly and thoughtfully research his positions, record, and judicial temperament." But King said President Trump has made clear the type of Supreme Court Justice he would seek to nominate on issues such as a woman's right to choose, limits on executive power and on the Affordable Care Act.
"I’ve voted against ideologically extreme judges that do not reflect Maine’s values a number of times before," King said, "And, if my research indicates that Judge Kavanaugh is another such nominee, I will not hesitate to do so again."
Maine Congressperson Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, had harsher criticism for Kavanaugh. She said he has "an egregious record of undermining a woman's right to make her own health care decisions — from stopping a woman from accessing an abortion to allowing a woman's boss to deny her birth control coverage."
Pingree said she will strongly urge her Senate counterparts not to approve any nominee chosen by President Trump until the investigation into his campaign's involvement with Russia has concluded.
While the House of Representatives is not involved in the confirmation process, Republican Congressperson Bruce Poliquin also released a statement on President Trump's pick.
"Brett Kavanaugh has an impressive tenure of service, as a jurist and as a clerk at the Supreme Court," Poliquin said. "I’m hopeful the White House will work with the Senate, including Senators Collins and King, on approving a Justice for the Supreme Court who will serve Mainers and the Nation dutifully and honorably."