SALT LAKE CITY — Members of Utah's congressional delegation praised President Donald Trump's nomination Monday of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“Judge Kavanaugh is a well-respected jurist who deservedly received bipartisan support when confirmed to the D.C. Circuit in 2006," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said in a prepared statement. "I know him to be a smart and fair judge, one of the most admired appellate judges in the country.
"I look forward to the process in the Senate, getting to know Judge Kavanaugh and his family better in coming months, and, hopefully, voting to confirm him to the Supreme Court in the fall.”
Lee was one of seven candidates whom Trump interviewed for the job. Seen as a dark horse to replace Kennedy, conservative groups, senators and opinion leaders made a case for Lee over the weekend.
Lee received a phone call Monday from Trump telling him he would not be his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lee wouldn't discuss details of the conversation other than to confirm he wasn't Trump's choice but he attended the president's prime-time announcement of his pick.
Both Lee and his brother, Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Lee, were on Trump's list of 25 potential nominees.
Orrin Hatch, Utah's senior senator, called Kavanaugh "an outstanding choice."
"I know him from his previous confirmation to the D.C. Circuit. He is one of our nation’s most distinguished and influential jurists. During his more than 12 years on the bench, Judge Kavanaugh has authored hundreds of opinions on issues ranging from national security to agency rule-making to constitutional rights," Hatch said in a prepared statement.
"He has shown a deep commitment to the separation of powers and to both the First and Second Amendment. He will be a strong, principled voice on the Supreme Court."
Hatch said he is prepared for his 15th Supreme Court confirmation fight since becoming a senator.
"I fought hard to confirm Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, and I intend to do everything in my power to see Judge Kavanaugh confirmed as well," he said.
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, also praised Kavanaugh.
“Like President Trump’s first appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated a commitment to interpreting the Constitution as it is written, rather than as he would personally like to have seen it written. I hope the Senate will swiftly fulfill their Constitutional responsibility to provide advice and consent by confirming this eminently qualified judge to the Supreme Court," Curtis said in a statement.
“Judge Kavanaugh is an experienced, principled jurist with a strong record of protecting life and constitutional rights," Rep Mia Love, R-Utah said in a statement. "I’m looking forward to hearing more from him during the upcoming conformation hearings. “
Earlier Monday, Hatch said it would be "wonderful" if the president nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. He said Trump had a plethora of excellent candidates and Republicans could support any one of them.
"But there's something within me that says it would be wonderful if he'd appoint Amy Coney Barrett," Hatch said on Fox News. "I think that would be a good thing."
Barrett and Kavanaugh were among four federal judges on the president's list of finalists that also included Raymond Kethledge and Thomas Hardiman.
Hatch said he expects a fight with the Democrats over the nomination will be "vicious."
"The Democrats are so upset that the Republicans have this opportunity of appointing nominees to the court that they just make every doggone appointment a cause celeb, and that's just ridiculous," he said.
Lily Eskelsen Garcia — president of the National Education Association, a former Utah teacher of the year and former Utah Education Association president — was not pleased with Trump's selection.
“The Supreme Court has already gone far enough in becoming a rubber stamp for President Trump’s political agenda, and Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination threatens a generational transformation of our government that will entrench laws favoring the wealthy and powerful," she said in a statement. "Just this past term, the Supreme Court, in 5-4 decisions, ruled against workers’ rights and strong unions, upheld the discriminatory Muslim travel ban, and allowed racial discrimination in the drawing of legislative districts.
“Judge Kavanaugh has long demonstrated that he will not be a fair-minded constitutionalist who will fight for equality and justice for all. In fact, before being nominated, he was vetted and approved by the Heritage Foundation — a corporate-funded organization that seeks to end the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid; strives to weaken workers’ rights and to silence their voices in the workplaces; and advocates to replace our public schools with vouchers that funnel public funding to private religious schools."
U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney tweeted his support for Kavanaugh.
"Esteemed by his colleagues, faithful to the Constitution, a record of thoughtful decisions, and already confirmed for the DC Circuit; Brett Kavanaugh has the right stuff," Romney wrote.
Romney's Democratic opponent, Jenny Wilson, said, as a senator she would oppose any justice who would turn the clock backward and minimize an individual's reproductive rights, civil rights or religious rights.
"Those are the principles I would use to make this decision and the lens through which I will measure Judge Kavanaugh's eligibility in the days to come," she said.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes also applauded Trump's choice.
"Judge Kavanaugh’s experience and jurisprudence on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia demonstrates he has the most important quality a judicial nominee can possess — the ability to decide cases as an impartial judge based on the U.S. Constitution and laws passed by Congress, and not as a would-be legislator, based on laws as the judge may wish them to be," he said in a statement.