Planned Parenthood Foe Jon Kyl Is Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court 'Sherpa'

Former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl at a 2017 forum hosted by the Sandra Day O'Connor Institute. The Arizonan was selected to shepherd President Trump's Supreme Court pick to confirmation.
Former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl at a 2017 forum hosted by the Sandra Day O'Connor Institute. The Arizonan was selected to shepherd President Trump's Supreme Court pick to confirmation. Gage Skidmore/flickr
Former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl served in Congress for 26 years and has a plush lobbying job in Washington, making him a natural choice for the White House to tap as the "sherpa" who can smooth the road to confirmation for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh.

And if you're a social conservative who opposes abortion and wants to end Roe v. Wade, you're probably pleased to see that Kyl will be steering Kavanaugh's nomination process.

In Congress, Kyl was a staunch opponent of abortion rights. To this day, he's famous for a nonsensical argument on the Senate floor that abortions are 'well over 90 percent' of Planned Parenthood's services.

"You don't have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked," Kyl said in 2011. "If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does."

Planned Parenthood says that abortions constitute about 3 percent of its services, a small portion of its broad reproductive health services that include preventative care and birth control.

His staff later defended him by saying that Kyl's comment "was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, a organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions."

Kyl as sherpa is one more sign of the momentous stakes of the Supreme Court confirmation battle to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would be a reliable fifth conservative vote on the court, potentially deciding the future of Roe v. Wade and dozens of other gigantic legal cases.

The former three-term Republican senator  served from 1995 to 2013. Kyl now works for Washington law and lobbying firm Covington and Burling, LLP.

When reached via email on Tuesday, Kyl said that he's busy with the confirmation process. "Prospects excellent. I just help out," Kyl wrote. "Introduce him to Senators, follow up, etc."

Kyl has also not held back from criticizing Trump. He has called the president "boorish" and "his own worst enemy." Yet he is apparently still willing to steer Trump's hugely consequential Cabinet and Supreme Court picks through the Senate gauntlet.

Nominating a new justice to the Supreme Court is one of a president's most important powers and the lifetime appointment of 53-year-old Kavanaugh could create the most conservative court in a generation.

A former aide to George W. Bush, Kavanaugh is a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. According to CNN, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that Kyl serve as the sherpa for the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation battle.

Although some anti-abortion groups fell in line when Trump announced Kavanaugh as his pick on Monday night, other social conservatives were not thrilled with the decision. They criticize Kavanaugh as insufficiently committed to overturning Roe v. Wade. During his tense confirmation hearing for the D.C. appeals court, Kavanaugh would not give a personal opinion on Roe, merely stating that he would follow judicial precedent.

Kyl also was the sherpa in the confirmation battle over Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions — a favorite of anti-immigrant hardliners of the right.

Now, Kyl is poised to help the president deliver another conservative voice to the Supreme Court — Trump's second nomination, after Neil Gorsuch — which makes it that much stranger to hear Kyl criticize Trump.

"Trump is a phenomenon that has to be dealt with," Kyl told KJZZ in February. "But we have a system which fortunately is capable of doing that."

This article has been updated with a comment from former Senator Jon Kyl.
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Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty