(WASHINGTON) — Just hours after his dramatic White House East Room announcement as Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was on Capitol Hill Tuesday beginning the traditional process of paying courtesy calls on the senators who will vote on his confirmation.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats were already pushing a coordinated message against Kavanaugh as an unacceptable choice on both policy and political grounds.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was the first to meet with Kavanaugh, along with Vice President Mike Pence and Kavanaugh’s “sherpa” throughout the confirmation process, former Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl.
Pence said he was confident that the members of both parties, as well as the American people, would come to realize that Kavanaugh “is quite simply the most qualified and the most deserving nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, whose panel will hold Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and eventually vote on whether his nominee should be referred to the full Senate, said he expects the consideration process to be “thorough.”
“We’ll try to do what we can to accommodate everybody’s interest,” he said.
That could have been a nod to Senate Judiciary Democrats who said Tuesday that they want to review every piece of paper related to Kavanaugh’s public service, including his work in the George W. Bush administration.
“We have a job to do as members of the Judiciary Committee to dig into his record. To go through it thoroughly, to demand the release of every single record that might be relevant,” Sen. Chris Coons said at a press conference Tuesday along with other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In addition to working in the White House Counsel’s office under Bush, Kavanaugh also worked for independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation into the death of Clinton aide Vince Foster and the Monica Lewinsky probe that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
Kavanaugh’s long paper trail is only part of the Democratic strategy for building opposition. They already have also been hammering the message that he would vote to undermine key progressive priorities like the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights and the Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
“There’s every reason to believe he would overturn Roe,” Sen. Diane Feinstein said at the press conference.
“We should be very concerned that this nominee has been vetted by the Heritage Foundation, whose goal is to repeal the ACA and the protections it provides,” Sen. Mazie Hirono asserted.
Democrats are also arguing that Trump picked Kavanaugh because of a law review article he wrote in 2009, that makes the case for deferring criminal investigations against sitting presidents.
“I believe it is vital that the President be able to focus on his never-ending tasks with as few distractions as possible,” Kavanaugh wrote.
“Congress might consider a law exempting a President—while in office—from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel,” he wrote.
Democrats are likely to confront Kavanaugh with those words when he sits for his confirmation hearing.
“No investigation of a president! Is it any wonder that President Trump chose Kavanaugh from the list of 25? When we know that he’s obsessed with this investigation?” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said.
Despite the cohesiveness among most Senate Democrats on the anti-Kavanaugh messaging, it’s not yet clear how three moderate members of the caucus – Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., all of whom voted for Justice Neil Gorsuch and are in the midst of tough re-election fights this year, will vote.
McConnell said Tuesday that he hoped they would keep an open mind. With Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., receiving cancer treatment in his home state, Republicans need all 50 Republicans, plus Pence as a tiebreaker, to confirm Kavanaugh, assuming no Democrats join them.
“We’ve got a few Democrats on Justice Gorsuch and we’re hopeful that we’ll have a few of them on this nomination as well,” McConnell said during his weekly press availability.
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