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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 TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation 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 PortmanOn The Money: Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia | Treasury releases guidance on 'opportunity zone' program | Maxine Waters gets company in new GOP line of attack Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms How Kavanaugh got the votes  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 GarlandMajor overhauls needed to ensure a violent revolution remains fictional It’s Mitch McConnell’s Washington – and we’re just living in it Ending the judicial Wheel of Fortune: The need for 18-year Supreme Court terms 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 GrassleyGOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October 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.