On Senate Floor, Portman Says SCOTUS Nominee Judge Kavanaugh Has “Great Compassion, Great Humility, and a Big Heart”

July 12, 2018 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks on the Senate floor praising U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his impressive background and exceptional qualifications as well as his character, compassion, and humility. Portman has known Judge Kavanaugh for more than 15 years, since they worked together in the George W. Bush administration. He urged his colleagues on both sides of the aisle keep an open mind before making their final decisions. 

A transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here:


“Mr. President, I rise today to talk about a couple of topics, and I ask unanimous consent that they be divided properly in the Congressional Record. I first want to talk about Brett Kavanaugh. Brett Kavanaugh is the president’s nominee to be the new justice on the United States Supreme Court. Yesterday I had the chance to sit down with Judge Kavanaugh in my office and talk about his judicial philosophy, his view of the role of the courts, and how he would approach some of the tough issues that the court is likely to face. Frankly, I cannot think of anybody who’s more qualified to serve as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court. This guy’s background is incredibly impressive as is his record, which I will get to in a minute. But just as important to me is Brett Kavanaugh the person. 

“Let me speak briefly about Brett because I have known him for over 15 years. I have gotten to know him and his wife. I worked with him in the George W. Bush White House. I also had the opportunity to work with his wife because she was the personal assistant to George W. Bush. They are both wonderful people and it’s a great family and Brett Kavanaugh is a person I have gotten to know, not so much as a legal scholar and judge but as a friend and watched him as a father and as a husband. He’s a guy with great compassion, great humility, and a big heart. In his remarks on Monday at the White House, he talked a little about his life outside of being a judge, he talked about coaching his daughters’ basketball team. Many of us who have been coaches for our high school kids and grade school kids probably were able to relate to that. I’m kind of glad my kids got old enough where they could get better coaching so they wouldn’t have all these bad habits that I probably taught them. The fact is that’s who he is, he coaches his daughters and makes that a priority. He also talked about tutoring underprivileged kids. That’s something he does quietly on his own time and feels strongly about. Finally, he talked a little about how he prepares and serves meals to homeless people who are connected through his church. He talked about the priest who he works with on that, and I talked to the priest afterwards, and the priest said, in fact, we do this regularly. In fact, we’re going to be serving a meal together on Wednesday. And you never heard Brett Kavanaugh talk about that. 

“In fact, in my meeting with Brett Kavanaugh yesterday, he did not mention he was going straight from my meeting with him to serve meals to the homeless. I found out after the fact when someone brought to my attention that on Twitter there was somebody who was there and had taken a photograph of him in the background with a ball cap on. It’s not something he brags about. It’s not something he told me about. It’s not something he does because it’s the right thing to do for political purposes. He does it because it’s the right thing to do as a Christian and as someone who cares about his community and that’s the Brett Kavanaugh I know. And I hope that others will see these sides of Brett Kavanaugh as he goes through the confirmation process. 

“As people get to know him through that, they are going to be very impressed and people are going to differ on judicial philosophy some, but with regard to what kind of person you would want to see on the Supreme Court of the United States to look at what will be a difficult issue that will come before that court, you want somebody who has a big heart and has that compassion and who is humble and has the humility to be able to listen. Brett Kavanaugh is a good listener. He’s also got a very distinguished legal record. So, you know, there’s some great judges out there, but I don’t think, again, anybody has qualifications better than Brett Kavanaugh. He is clearly qualified to sit on the United States Supreme Court. Oftentimes people call the D.C. Circuit the ‘second highest court in the land’ and that’s the court he sits on already. He’s earned the respect there serving on the court with justices across the spectrum, judges on the right, judges on the left. He’s had a number of law clerks go through his process who end up clerking maybe for the Supreme Court or going to private practice or pro bono work or with the government and every one of them that I’ve had the opportunity to know or to talk to has glowing things to say about him. One was my counsel in my own office, and he’s earned the respect of people whose lives he has touched and who have been able to work with him.

 “He’s got a great legal education. He graduated from Yale Law School and clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy. This is the justice who he would replace if is he confirmed. Justice Kennedy is viewed as a consensus builder, Brett Kavanaugh is a consensus justice. In his more than 300 published opinions, Judge Kavanaugh has proven time and time again that he is a judge who deserves that respect because he applies the law fairly, impartially. He is independent, impartial, and smart. He interprets the law and the Constitution rather than trying to legislate from the bench, which is very important. I think sometimes we forget about the separation of powers, and this is where people are accountable to the voters where we legislate and the members of the Supreme Court  and the lower courts, as well, are meant to interpret those laws, and, of course, take our great Constitution and faithfully interpret that as well. I think that’s all really important judicial philosophy and one that I think most people want. That’s what they are looking for in a judge, to fairly and impartially apply the law and protect the rights guaranteed by our constitution and not to advance personal policy goals by legislating from the bench. 

“Judge Kavanaugh has embodied this philosophy for his entire career as a judge. Professor Kavanaugh as he is known at Harvard Law School, where he taught for 10 years is so committed to the Constitution that his students say that he carries a copy of it in his pocket. They have also commented that it’s a well-worn copy because when he pulls it out it is almost falling apart from the use that he makes of it. It is the Constitution he is loyal to, not partisan politics. According to one student from Harvard Law School, and I quote, ‘If you didn’t know his background that [partisanship] wouldn’t come across. You wouldn’t think this guy is a Republican or this guy is a conservative. He wasn’t there to lecture us on Judge Kavanaugh’s policy preferences, he was there to talk about the law. I don’t see him as someone motivated by outcomes but as someone motivated by finding out what the law is and what the law says.’ I think that’s a big part of the reason why he’s such a widely respected judge, and why he’s so widely cited by other courts, including the Supreme Court. They have endorsed his opinions more than a dozen times in the Supreme Court of the United States, including some of his dissents that have then become the law of the land. They pick up his dissent in the D.C. Circuit and use that in the Supreme Court as a reasoning for a decision for the United States Supreme Court. That is highly unusual and I think that speaks to his credibility, his legal competence, and also his hard work. He’s a hard worker who focuses on ensuring that he’s fully prepared. 

“He’s also just a dedicated public servant. He has chosen to spend 25 of his last 28 years serving the American people in various jobs. For all of these reasons, I think, he is a great pick. He has the experience and qualifications, he understands the appropriate role of the judiciary and puts that understanding into practice on the bench. Just as importantly to me though, again, he is a good person. I’m proud to support Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court. I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will keep an open mind and get to know Brett Kavanaugh as I have gotten to know him and as I hope the American people will get to know him before they make a judgment. And my hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will become a Supreme Court justice who will make us all proud.”