Largest organization of Alaska natives ‘strongly’ opposes Kavanaugh
© Greg Nash

The Alaska Federation of Natives, the oldest and largest native organization in Alaska, on Wednesday said it "strongly" opposes the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, citing his “views on the rights of Native peoples.”

The group said in a statement that recent questions and colloquies that have come out of Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary hearings have “necessitated” them to take a position on his appointment. 

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The group’s announcement could potentially add more pressure to Alaska Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiProgressive group targets Collins, Murkowski after Kavanaugh allegation Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas GOP can't sweep Kavanaugh bombshell under the rug MORE's (R) decision on whether she supports the judge. Murkowski is seen as one of the few Republican senators who could be a swing vote on Kavanaugh's nomination.

If all Democratic senators vote “no” on Kavanaugh, they would need two Republicans to join them to block his nomination.

As The Anchorage Daily News noted, the Alaska Republican benefited from the group’s endorsement in her victory against Joe Miller in 2010.

The group said they join other “colleagues and friends across Indian country” in their opposition to Kavanaugh.

“AFN joins our colleagues and friends across Indian country in strongly opposing Judge Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court because of, among other things, his views on the rights of Native peoples,” the group said in the statement that also called Kavanaugh’s position on the Indian Commerce Clause “erroneous.” 

“Congress’ plenary power over Indian affairs is grounded in the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause gives Congress the power to ‘regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes,’ ” the group noted in the statement.

“Judge Kavanaugh concedes this point. However, like Justice Clarence Thomas—the most senior justice on the Supreme Court—he challenges the clause’s application to affairs beyond trade," the group continued. “This impacts Alaska Native tribes, corporations, organizations and consortia because their dealings with Congress presently extend to a host of federal programs concerning their members, resources and governments.”

The group also pointed out that during Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the judge “questioned the legitimacy of Native Hawaiian recognition, citing their different treatment by the federal government, and the fact that they do not live on reservations or enclaves.” 

“If he remains of the view that the special trust relationship only extends to Indian tribes with his brand of federal history, including territorial removal and isolation, he could very well rule that Congress lacks the authority to deal with Alaska Natives,” the group stated.

“AFN strongly urges the U.S. Senate to vote against Judge Kavanaugh,” the statement said in conclusion.