With protests reminiscent of those that surrounded the 1987 nomination of Robert Bork, Senate Judiciary hearings opened this Tuesday on the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
While it remains to be seen how the Kavanaugh nomination will fair compared to the campaign of opposition that ultimately kept Bork off the bench, the majority of issues fueling today’s fight mirror those that were at stake with Bork: civil rights, reproductive freedom, racial discrimination, voting rights, and the limits of executive power – specifically, whether a sitting president is immune from criminal prosecution.
What’s at stake for ICS members?
Access to healthcare is one issue affecting all ICS members – and all Americans – that the Supreme Court will have sweeping influence over as battles continue over the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid. In addition, depending on who actually fills the currently-vacant seat – Kavanaugh or another presidential appointee – rulings on a wide range of legal questions the court is likely to consider could endanger the ability of people with disabilities to live in the community.
For example, a recent federal court ruling allowing the State of Minnesota to cut funding for Medicaid services to people with disabilities may well wind up before the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court were to uphold the lower court’s ruling, it would allow other states to make similar cuts.
Another thorny problem: for the past few years, disability rights advocates have been lobbying Congress to pass the Disability Integration Act, which would require states to fund and establish the services necessary for people with disabilities in their states to live outside of institutions. This New York Times video by ICS member Jason DaSilva illustrates why the Disability Integration Act is so important. Yet, should it pass, any legal challenge to that law could move the Supreme Court to overturn its earlier ruling in Olmstead v. L.C., which established the right to community living in the first place. It’s a real-life Catch 22.
Still another bill pending in Congress – which was approved by the House in February but has not yet been put to a vote in the Senate – would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If it becomes law, it too will likely wind up before the Supreme Court, giving the justices the opportunity to further weaken the ADA.
While none of this has received the attention it merits, disability rights advocates have been organizing intensely in the weeks since the Kavanaugh nomination was announced on July 9.
In late August, more than 100 national and local disability rights organizations signed a letter to the Judiciary Committee chairs detailing how Kavanaugh’s record as a judge “indicates that his confirmation would place at risk access to health care and civil rights protections for people with disabilities [and] opportunities for people with disabilities to make choices about their own lives.” You can read that letter here.
Also this summer, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law published a review of Kavanaugh’s record of hostility toward the Americans with Disabilities Act and his disability-related rulings on employment discrimination, equal education, access to health care, voting rights and basic self-determination. The authors concluded that his appointment to the Supreme Court would “endanger hard won rights and protections for people with disabilities.” This detailed and devastating review can be read here.