Rand Paul announces support for Kavanaugh

Rand Paul announces support for Kavanaugh
© Greg Nash

GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election Hillicon Valley: Senate report finds major cyber shortcomings in federal agencies | Gig firms seek Mass. ballot question to classify workers as contractors | Blizzard's president steps down after workplace protests MORE (Ky.) on Monday said that he will support President TrumpDonald TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election 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 DurbinMcConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal Congress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan 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 PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions 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 McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' 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 CollinsGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Sarah Palin says she's praying about running for Senate against Murkowski Graham says he has COVID-19 'breakthrough' infection MORE (Alaska). 

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

Three Democrats vulnerable in the midterms — Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinThe infrastructure bill creates more need for workforce training The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Simone wins bronze with altered beam routine Jesse Jackson arrested with voting rights protesters at Capitol MORE (D-W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySupreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Republicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin MORE (Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampJoe Manchin's secret Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Effective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests 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.