Laurence H. Tribe argued in his Aug. 26 Sunday Opinion commentary, “Put Kavanaugh on hold,” that the Senate should delay confirmation hearings for Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh because the president might face impeachment. That argument fails on its face because the Supreme Court has nothing to do with impeachment proceedings.
The Constitution firmly vests the impeachment power with the House and the Senate. In the event of a Senate trial, the chief justice presides in a ceremonial role; an associate justice would have no part in the proceedings. Mr. Tribe’s attenuated bias theory — that the court might decide a case relevant to impeachment — is rebutted by constitutional structure (and history). The framers gave federal judges life tenure precisely to insulate them from political influence.
And in the two most recent cases involving the intersection between executive privilege and legal proceedings, there has been zero evidence of bias or partisanship. In both, the Supreme Court unanimously held that the cases must go on, notwithstanding the privilege.
Mr. Tribe was right about one thing: the increasing politicization of the Supreme Court. The remedy, however, is not to delay confirmation hearings for an unquestionably qualified nominee but to ensure the nominee believes in the judiciary created by the framers: a limited one committed to interpreting the law and nothing else.