Some Republican senators had favored other options.
Democrats and liberal advocacy groups quickly lined up in opposition. The president has faced allegations of sexual harassment and remains under investigation for obstruction of justice in the Russian Federation election meddling investigation. Democrats who were invited but declined included Sens. But Indiana's Joe Donnelly, North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia's Joe Manchin all say they won't attend. Feinstein is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
Republicans will target three Democrats facing re-election in conservative states where Trump won big majorities in the 2016 election - Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of in - to support Kavanaugh.
And Kentucky Republican Sen. Susan Collins of ME is up for reelection in 2020, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska faces voters in 2022, and we have no particular reason to think either is ready to retire any time soon. At the top of that list is abortion. And if it does become a party-line vote, Democrats will be forced to choose between (a) taking a dive and thereby angering the many rank-and-file members of their party who rightly fear Kavanaugh will, among other bad things, represent the fifth SCOTUS vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion, or (b) placing pressure on their own Senate Conference to cast a futile vote against Kavanaugh, including several very vulnerable red-state senators who might thereby succumb to Republicans in November.
Kennedy's replacement also could be more willing to allow states to carry out executions and could support undoing earlier court holdings in the areas of racial discrimination in housing and the workplace. Kavanaugh went to Yale and Yale Law School; every other justice now serving on the high court got his or her law degree either from Yale or from Harvard.
It also informed many of his rulings on executive power, where he largely has backed the president's authority to hire and fire officials at government agencies and offered his support to the White House and military commission process amid challenges from detainees.
Collins, one of three GOP senators who opposed efforts to repeal Obamacare past year, said Tuesday that health care issue is "very important to me" in considering Kavanaugh's candidacy. Since the mandate did not kick in until 2014, he wrote, the court could not render an opinion.
Democrats are likely to confront Kavanaugh with those words when he sits for his confirmation hearing.
White House spokesman Raj Shah says the Arizona Republican "has agreed to serve as the Sherpa for the President's nominee to the Supreme Court". He dissented from a ruling that let an undocumented immigrant teenager get an abortion while in federal custody. Of the court's liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 and Stephen Breyer turns 80 next month, so Trump may well get another opportunity to cement conservative dominance of the court for years to come. That's Republicans and Democrats alike.
Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, says it's "extremely disappointing" that some Democrats have made clear they'll oppose the nominee even before the president announces his choice.
No confirmation hearings have yet been scheduled for Kavanaugh but the judicial nominee is scheduled to meet with Orrin Hatch of Utah, a seven-term senator and former chair of the Senate judiciary committee, on Wednesday.