President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, met with two key red state Democratic senators Wednesday even as the vast majority of their Senate colleagues continue to snub him.
Kavanaugh was nominated on July 9 to succeed the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. If he is confirmed, it will give the nation’s highest court a solid conservative majority for the first time in generations.
Only Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) among Democrats had met with Kavanaugh before Wednesday, when the judge sat down first with Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), then Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).
Donnelly and Kavanaugh talked at about noon in a private conversation that went on for more than an hour. Heitkamp (pictured above right) met with Kavanaugh a couple of hours later. Neither of the two Democrats spoke to the crowds of reporters waiting outside their offices, but Donnelly did release a statement afterward.
“I had a wide-ranging conversation and productive meeting with Judge Kavanaugh,” Donnelly said in the statement. “Hoosiers rightly expect careful and thoughtful consideration of a nomination to our nation’s highest court, and I plan to keep doing my homework and make a decision sometime after Kavanaugh’s committee confirmation hearing.”
Kavanaugh ended his day on Capitol Hill with a meeting with Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). He is planning on meeting with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) next week. His confirmation hearing begins September 4.
Kavanaugh has been serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 2006. He was nominated to the circuit court by former President George W. Bush, for whom he had worked in the White House as a senior associate counsel and special assistant.
Donnelly asked about his White House tenure when meeting with him, an apparent nod in the direction of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has demanded that Kavanaugh turn over to senators an estimated 1 million documents from his time working in the White House before Democrats meet with him.
Donnelly and Heitkamp are seeking re-election in states that Trump handily carried in 2016, a fact that puts pressure on them not to appear to be impeding the president’s agenda. Manchin is also seeking re-election in November in West Virginia, which Trump carried in a massive landslide.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and other Republicans see the demand as nothing more than an attempt to delay the nomination process until after the midterm elections in November. Schumer has argued that the hold would be appreciated considering what happened to Judge Merrick Garland.
Former President Barack Obama nominated Garland to fill that seat toward the end of his term in 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the vote, claiming voters should have the opportunity to select the next president before the vacancy was filled.
Trump then nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and the Senate confirmed him. Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly were the only Democrats to vote in his favor.
Kavanaugh has been the subject of multiple campaigns and grass-roots initiatives since his nomination was announced. The Judicial Crisis Network and Americans for Prosperity, for instance, have committed to spending millions of dollars on advertising and grass-roots engagement.
NARAL Pro-Choice, Indivisible Project, MoveOn.org, Demand Justice, and other groups on the Left are spending even more time and money seeking to defeat Kavanaugh’s nomination.