GOP senator hits back in fight over Kavanaugh successor

GOP senator hits back in fight over Kavanaugh successor
© Greg Nash

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David Hawley228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade Trio of Senate Republicans urges Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade Atlanta-area spa shootings suspect set to be arraigned MORE (R-Mo.) is going on offense as he's come under fire from some conservatives for his skepticism about one of President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE's picks for a key appeals court.

Hawley, in an op-ed for The Federalist, pledged that he would ask "tough questions" and "challenge conventional wisdom" when it comes to judicial nominations, despite potential criticism.

"I know what a strong constitutional judge should do and say, and I’m not going to let other people, and certainly not the Washington establishment, do my thinking for me," Hawley wrote.

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Hawley's op-ed comes as he's come under criticism for publicly raising concerns about Neomi Rao, Trump's nominee to succeed Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughOn The Money: Biden asks Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration | Economic growth rose to 6.5 percent annual rate in second quarter Biden calls on Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration An obscure Supreme Court ruling is a cautionary tale of federal power MORE on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that Hawley "joins the left in trashing" Rao and argued that the GOP senator was trying to use a "litmus test" on Trump's nominee. Hawley fired back on Twitter that the editorial was "embarrassing."

Hawley's concerns have also put him in the crosshairs of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group deeply involved in the fight over confirming Trump's nominees, which announced that it would run ads in Missouri on Rao's nomination.

Axios first reported over the weekend that Hawley had concerns about Rao's nomination. He's supposed to meet with Rao on Wednesday, a day before the Judicial Committee is scheduled to vote on her nomination.

Hawley expanded on his concerns about Rao and her views on abortion in a letter to her that was publicly released by his office on Tuesday.

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"Understanding that lower court judges are bound by precedent, I will not vote to confirm nominees whom I believe will expand substantive due process precedents like Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania," Hawley wrote in the letter.

Hawley added that he questioned Rao's "judicial philosophy and approach to constitutional law," including "concerns" about some of Rao's academic writings.

Republicans have a 12-10 majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee, meaning that Republicans could send Rao's nomination to the Senate floor even if Hawley voted "no," as long as every other Republican on the panel voted "yes."

Since Republicans hold a 53-seat majority in the Senate, they could lose three Republicans and still confirm Rao.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund MORE (R-Iowa), a member of the committee, had previously raised concerns about Rao's college writings on date rape. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonChuck Todd is dead wrong: Liberal bias defines modern journalism Ex-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis MORE (R-Ark.) has also raised questions about Rao.

Judicial nominations are a top priority for Republicans, who confirmed Trump's 31st circuit court pick on Tuesday.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar Trump takes two punches from GOP The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has scheduled a vote for Rao on Thursday.

"I really like Josh. He's really smart. I think she's extremely qualified and very mainstream in her thinking," Graham told reporters on Tuesday evening. "So we'll see what happens, but hopefully we can resolve any differences."