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Rand Paul announces support for Kavanaugh

Rand Paul announces support for Kavanaugh
© Greg Nash

GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (Ky.) on Monday said that he will support President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Pelosi, Mnuchin push stimulus talks forward, McConnell applies brakes Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee 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 PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Brazil's OECD candidacy is best chance for reform Watch live: Pompeo news conference 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 McCainSenate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave Budowsky: Trump's COVID-19 death toll dominates election Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein 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 CollinsDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid Senate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Senate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Senate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court MORE (Alaska). 

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

Three Democrats vulnerable in the midterms — Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSusan Collins and the American legacy Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (D-W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty MORE (Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle 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.