Spotlight shifts to Kavanaugh ahead of hearings

Spotlight shifts to Kavanaugh ahead of hearings
© Anna Moneymaker

Republican and Democratic senators on Sunday drove home their parting messages for the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, making clear the stakes when Kavanaugh sits before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

“If you are looking to a Republican president to pick a qualified conservative, he would be on the top of anyone's list,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Warren: Officials have duty ‘to invoke 25th amendment’ if they think Trump is unfit MORE (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday," predicting that as many as 55 senators will vote to confirm Kavanaugh if he performs well at Tuesday's hearing.

“He's the one person I think every Republican president would see is the most qualified of their generation,” he added.

Senators took to the Sunday talk shows to preview their arguments for Tuesday's hearing. Republicans sought to cast Kavanaugh as a capable and qualified nominee, while parrying away a litany of Democratic arguments for why the Senate should reject Kavanaugh or delay his confirmation process entirely.

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Republicans hold a 50-49 advantage in the Senate after the death late last week of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech MORE (R-Ariz.). While no GOP senators have indicated they will oppose Kavanaugh, Democrats have continued to beat the drum on a series of issues in an effort to turn the tide against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE's nominee.

Chief among those issues on Sunday was the subject of transparency.

"You have a nominee with excellent credentials, with his family behind him, you have the cameras there, you have the senators questioning, but this isn’t normal because we are not able to see 100,000 documents that the archivist has just — because the administration has said we can’t see them," Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Gillibrand uses Trump Jr. tweet to fundraise Trump: Bernie Sanders 'missed his time' for White House MORE (D-Minn.) said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

She noted that there are close to 150,000 confidential documents she's been able to see, but that are restricted from the public. Asked if anything she's seen makes Kavanaugh unqualified for the job, Klobuchar said the documents "strongly bolster the arguments that I could make."

"I think you could ask some very interesting questions about these documents, that I'm unable to even say because I'm not able to make them public," Klobuchar said.

A Twitter account for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive | Dems question IRS on new tax forms | Warren rolls out universal child care proposal | Illinois governor signs bill for minimum wage Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks MORE (R-Iowa) noted shortly after Klobuchar's interview that the Minnesota Democrat was the lone member of her party to work with Grassley to request specific confidential Kavanaugh documents be made public for use at this week's hearing.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSanders: 'Not crazy' about nixing the Senate filibuster Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump praises law enforcement response to shooting at Illinois business MORE (D-Ill.), the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, accused the White House of "suppressing" documents related to Kavanaugh's time working in the George W. Bush administration.

"If [Kavanaugh's] so proud of his conservative credentials, show us the record, stand before us, trust the American people and they will trust you," Durbin said on "Fox News Sunday."

The White House and Senate Republicans have countered the long-standing Democratic argument about a lack of disclosure by noting that they've released hundreds of thousands of documents related to Kavanaugh's past work.

Republicans have asserted that Democrats have latched onto complaints about Kavanaugh's paperwork because they've been unable to gain traction on a policy issue that could endanger his nomination.

Most recently, some progressives have contended that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's guilty plea and former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortTrump has publicly criticized Russia probe more than 1,100 times: NY Times Judge orders Stone to appear in court after he shared photo of her with crosshairs Roger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case MORE's conviction make Kavanaugh's nomination untenable.

As Trump's former associates find themselves in legal jeopardy and the president continues his attacks on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, Democrats have seized on Kavanaugh's past writings arguing that presidents should be protected from outside investigations.

"There is a serious question as to whether this president, given the opportunity, will end the Mueller investigation, something which most Republicans and the overwhelming majority of Americans say would be a serious mistake," Durbin said. "And we ask, of course, Judge Kavanaugh, 'what do you think,' and he says it's hands off when it comes to a president during his term in office."

"I think that's a mistake and it's one of the major reasons people had misgivings about his nomination," Durbin added.

Republicans on Sunday rejected the idea that Kavanaugh would be in Trump's pocket on any potential ruling over a Mueller subpoena or other investigative issue.

"I’m sure Judge Kavanaugh will follow the, you know, the guidelines and recuse himself in cases where he should," Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority GOP senator voices concern about Trump order, hasn't decided whether he'll back it MORE (R-Wis.) said on ABC's "This Week."

A final central argument in Kavanaugh's nomination has been the fate of Roe v. Wade. Since the time former Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, Democrats and pro-choice advocates have warned that Trump would seek to nominate a judge to overturn the landmark case that guaranteed a woman's right to an abortion.

While Durbin reiterated that message on Sunday, Republicans downplayed the need for Kavanaugh to address his thoughts on the case explicitly ahead of Tuesday's hearing.

"I did talk to him about precedent, like Judge [Neil] Gorsuch," Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanAlaska in lockdown over leadership stalemate Bennet gives emotional speech ripping into Cruz over shutdown Trump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  MORE (R-Alaska), who is helping Kavanaugh prepare for his confirmation hearing, said on NBC. Gorsuch was Trump's first successfully confirmed Supreme Court appointee.

"With regard to Roe v. Wade, I didn’t get into the details when I met with him about asking about that," Sullivan added. "I think he’s going to be asked about this a lot during the whole week so we’re going to watch on that."

While moderate Republicans like Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTexas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE (R-Maine) have said they would oppose a nominee who showed "hostility" toward Roe v. Wade as settled law, Graham argued Kavanaugh would not be doing his job if he had such a closed-minded approach.

"Precedent is important, but it's not inviolate," Graham said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"If it were up to me, states would make these decisions, not the Supreme Court," he added. "But it is a long-held precedent of the court. It will be challenged over time, and I hope he will give it a fair hearing, and I know he will."