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Rand Paul announces support for Kavanaugh

Rand Paul announces support for Kavanaugh
© Greg Nash

GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Haley isolated after Trump fallout MORE (Ky.) on Monday said that he will support President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“After meeting Judge Kavanaugh and reviewing his record, I have decided to support his nomination,” Paul said in a statement.

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He added that while no one will “ever completely agree with a nominee,” they “must be judged on the totality of their views, character, and opinions.”

Paul, who previously described himself as “honestly undecided,” has remained tight-lipped since his meeting with Kavanaugh last week, which lasted for more than an hour.

But a person familiar with the discussions previously told The Hill that Paul raised concerns about Kavanaugh as Trump was weighing who to select to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy. 

And Paul was widely considered a potential swing vote because of his positions on the Fourth Amendment, which established the constitutional right to privacy.

“I have expressed my concern over Judge Kavanaugh’s record on warrantless bulk collection of data and how that might apply to very important privacy cases before the Supreme Court,” Paul said on Monday. 

He added he hoped Kavanaugh would be “more open” to protections on digital records and property in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that found, in most cases, law enforcement has to obtain a warrant in order to search and seize long-term cell phone records that would show a person’s location.  

“Of course, my vote is not a single-issue vote, and much of my reading and conversation has been in trying to figure out exactly how good Judge Kavanaugh will be on other issues before the Court,” Paul added. 

Democrats had also hoped that Kavanaugh's work in the Bush administration could be used to sway Paul, who has previously broken with his parties on issues like surveillance and torture. 

But senators in both parties were skeptical that Paul would ultimately be willing to buck Trump, whom he has worked to cultivate a relationship with, and cast the deciding vote against his Supreme Court pick.

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinPartisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo Democrats ask FBI for plans to address domestic extremism following Capitol attack MORE (D-Ill.) called Paul a “perennial tease.”

“They get a lot of press attention but rarely, if ever, will break from their party,” Durbin told The Hill when asked about the chances that Paul would vote against Kavanaugh.

Trump thanked Paul in a tweet early Monday evening, saying the senator’s affirmative vote “means a lot to me, and to everyone who loves our Country!”

The president and the Kentucky senator have had a friendly relationship of late, with Paul defending Trump against criticism for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Paul had previously threatened to vote against Mike PompeoMike PompeoUS intel: Saudi crown prince approved Khashoggi killing Golden statue of Trump at CPAC ridiculed online Five things to watch at CPAC MORE's secretary of State nomination before reversing course minutes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was scheduled to hold a vote.

With Paul's decision to support Kavanaugh, the already uphill path for Democrats to block his nomination gets even narrower.

Republicans nixed the 60-vote procedural threshold for Supreme Court nominees last year, meaning Democrats can't stop Trump's pick on their own.

Republicans have a 51-49 advantage in the Upper Chamber, but it is unknown if ailing Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain planning 'intimate memoir' of life with John McCain Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors Arkansas state senator says he's leaving Republican Party MORE (R-Ariz.) would be able to make a vote, meaning if all the Democrats vote against confirmation, they would need at least one Republican to join them to block Kavanaugh.

Democratic leadership is hoping to replicate the strategy they used last year to successfully block ObamaCare repeal legislation by keeping their caucus united and focusing on one or two GOP senators. With Paul supporting Kavanaugh, the pressure will intensify on GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden Why the 'Never-Trumpers' flopped Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars MORE (Alaska). 

But Democrats could face challenges in keeping their own caucus united.

Three Democrats vulnerable in the midterms — Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Democrats scramble to rescue minimum wage hike White House noncommittal on 'Plan B' push to add wage increase to relief bill MORE (D-W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEverybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big MORE (Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampCentrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Harrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment Biden to tap Vilsack for Agriculture secretary: reports MORE (N.D.) — previously voted for Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first Supreme Court nominee. 

Manchin is scheduled to meet with Kavanaugh on Monday afternoon, marking his first known meeting with a Democratic senator.

—Updated at 6:58 p.m.