Kavanaugh calls Kennedy a 'mentor' and a 'friend' in opening statement

Kavanaugh calls Kennedy a 'mentor' and a 'friend' in opening statement
© Anna Moneymaker

President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, will stress the importance of judicial independence and teamwork during his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing Tuesday.

In the statement, excerpts of which were released by the White House, Kavanaugh stresses that he has worked to not favor prosecutors or defendants in his career, and assures senators that he will not decide cases based on policy positions.

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"A good judge must be an umpire — a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy. … I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge," he says in the remarks.

"To me, Justice Kennedy is a mentor, a friend, and a hero," Kavanaugh added of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose seat he has been nominated to take on the court.

"As a member of the court, he was a model of civility and collegiality. He fiercely defended the independence of the Judiciary. And he was a champion of liberty," Kavanaugh added.

Kavanaugh, who was nominated by Trump in July to succeed Kennedy, is set to face senators at his confirmation hearing Tuesday, where he will be introduced by several top Republicans including Ohio Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanIsrael boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate Drug company to offer cheaper opioid overdose treatment after hiking price 600 percent The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress to act soon to avoid shutdown MORE and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Kavanaugh also appears to offer laurels to Democrats in his opening remarks and praises Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandSupreme Court not for life? Beware perils to its independence Mellman: Enemies of democracy Debate over term limits for Supreme Court gains new life MORE, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who was unsuccessfully nominated to the Supreme Court during former President Obama's last year in office.

"I have served with 17 other judges, each of them a colleague and a friend, on a court now led by our superb chief judge, Merrick Garland," Kavanaugh says.

"If confirmed to the court, I would be part of a team of nine, committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States," he added. "I would always strive to be a team player on the team of nine."

Democrats had sought to block or delay Kavanaugh's nomination following the guilty plea of Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, last month on charges of tax and bank fraud after Cohen implicated the president in a hush money scheme before the 2016 election.

Every Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee signed a letter to Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate votes to end debate on criminal justice reform bill Five takeaways from the court decision striking down ObamaCare The Year Ahead: Tough tests loom for Trump trade agenda MORE (R-Iowa), urging him to delay the nomination over the development.

Democrats need one Republican vote to stop Kavanaugh's nomination in the Senate, assuming that every Democratic senator votes against his nomination.

— This report was updated at 7:58 a.m.