Published: Fri, September 14, 2018

Senate Judiciary Committee schedules vote on Kavanaugh nomination

Senate Judiciary Committee schedules vote on Kavanaugh nomination

Protesters are carried out by police while the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the third day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 6, 2018. He has met privately with nearly all the Republican senators and one Democrat as supporters try to build momentum for confirmation.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi, Ari. He trod a careful line when it came to Trump.

One of the few times Kavanaugh seemed thrown, even momentarily, was when Harris, the California Democrat, found a new way to ask Kavanaugh about abortion. It's a question that I have not written about.

The latter group included a woman from IN who made the farcical claim that the ability of women to get birth control would virtually disappear if Kavanaugh is confirmed, and a 15-year old (one of three teenagers to testify against the nominee, remarkably) who complained about Kavanaugh's decisions on environmental issues. Kavanaugh would not not bite on that or any question dealing with Trump's attacks on prosecutors or federal judges.

If you got the sense from watching Kavanaugh this week that he was a friend to, and valued women, that's certainly the impression he was shooting for.

"The way we stand up is by deciding cases and controversies independently without fear or favor", Kavanaugh said.

The president's first appointee to the high court, Neil Gorsuch, previous year told senators Trump's remarks on the judiciary were "disheartening" and "demoralizing".

On divisive issues that could reach the court, such as abortion and gun rights, Kavanaugh declined to offer personal views, restricting himself to reciting Supreme Court precedent. And once he was confirmed, he voted very differently. Over three days of non-stop interruptions and grilling from 21 senators, Judge Kavanaugh has proven he can exhibit and has exhibited these abilities over the past three days and over the entirety of his twelve-year career. "As Justice Kagan put it, you can't as a nominee in this seat give a thumbs up or thumbs down".

Fellow Democrats Menendez and Pallone praised Booker for his courage in demanding release of the documents.

Let's unpack that statement: Regulation "outside the bounds of what the laws passed by Congress have said" is contrary to a basic tenet of Republican and conservative principles about small government and limited governmental.

"It's probably the last thing that Democrats running for re-election in red states want to be talking about", said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former top aide to Sen. But in questioning about the email Wednesday, Booker found an opening in Kavanaugh describing himself in the email as "generally race neutral", insisting it suggested there might instances in which he might be racially biased. One of the documents, for instance, related to abortion. And Kavanaugh's testimony that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, "was settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court", and that it had been reaffirmed by a subsequent high court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey - which he said was "precedent on precedent" - didn't do much to allay those concerns. And Kavanaugh said essentially to the author that that was an overstatement.

"I've heard it said that I'm a skeptic of regulation", he said.

Republicans embraced the evaluation, though they have at times sharply rebuked the ABA for giving low ratings to some of President Donald Trump's other judicial nominees.

Sens. Joe Donnelly in IN or Claire McCaskill in Missouri may benefit from a court battle that energizes the Democratic base. Cory Booker is scheduled to headline Iowa Democrats' marquee fall banquet next month, raising his national profile further on the heels of a spotlight role in confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Joe Manchin in West Virginia, try to appeal to the moderate Republicans and independents they need to win over.

TOTENBERG: Largely by treading water nicely.

She is referring to Fred Guttenberg, who tried to shake hands with Kavanaugh earlier in the week.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Nina Totenberg, thanks for your coverage this week.

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