Sen. Collins, potential swing vote, meets with Kavanaugh
By DUSTIN WEAVER and LISA MASCARO, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh met Tuesday with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a centrist who’s seen as a potential swing vote on his confirmation, while Democrats push him to release more documents from his years in the George W. Bush White House.
Collins supports abortion rights and has vowed to oppose any nominee who has “demonstrated hostility” to Roe v. Wade. But she has spoken highly of President Donald Trump’s nominee, saying he’s qualified for the job.
The meeting Tuesday comes as Kavanaugh, an appellate court judge, is making the rounds on Capitol Hill ahead of confirmation hearings in September. One key meeting will be with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who says he’ll ask Kavanaugh to fully support releasing documents from the Bush White House that Republicans have declined to review.
Schumer said he will ask Kavanaugh, as he has Republicans, “What are they hiding?” He expects the judge to be able to fully explain his record. “I hope he comes prepared to answer direct questions,” he said.
Democrats complain that Republicans, who have a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, are withholding documents in their rush to confirm Trump’s pick for the court ahead of the midterm elections.
Kavanagh, 53, is a conservative who, in replacing retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, could tip the court rightward for a generation.
Several Democratic women senators joined with advocates for women’s health care Tuesday to talk about the stakes of adding Kavanaugh to the court, particularly when it comes to access to abortion services.
“This is a wakeup call,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. “Do not take this moment lightly.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., also said Kavanaugh should have no problem releasing all his writings and documents. “Why would he complicit with this administration in hiding all of this paper that’s out there?” she asked.
Kavanaugh has already met with most Republicans but his meeting with Collins, and a meeting expected later this month with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will be crucial. Both senators both support access to abortion services.
Kavanaugh is also set to meet with other Democrats on Tuesday as he steps up his outreach to that side of the aisle.
Many Democrats have already said they would oppose Kavanaugh.
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee scolded his colleagues for treating the nominee as if he’d just been released from prison and said that the hoped the discourse around Kavanaugh’s remained civil. “I hope we treat him with dignity and respect,” Alexander said.
Republicans are using an expedited process to review Kavanaugh’s lengthy record in public service, drawing on records assembled by Bush’s lawyer, Bill Burck, separate from those traditionally compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Republicans say there is plenty to review, including 300 court cases from his 12 years as a judge, and are only seeking records from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House counsel’s office. Democrats also want documents from Kavanaugh’s three-year stint as Bush’s staff secretary.
The National Archives is also producing documents from Kavanaugh’s time on Kenneth Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton, but has said its larger cache of files from the Bush years won’t fully be delivered until late October.
Documents released Monday from the Starr investigation include a two-page memo in which Kavanaugh suggested that attorneys preparing to question Clinton seek graphic details about the president’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Another memo released earlier this month showed Kavanaugh opposed to indicting a sitting president and preferred to send the findings of the investigation to the Justice Department for the next administration to review.
Republicans hope to have Kavanaugh confirmed by the start of the court’s session Oct. 1.