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 GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Trump offers sympathy for those charged with Jan. 6 offenses Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees 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 McCain20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements 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 TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol 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 KlobucharHarris, CBC put weight behind activist-led National Black Voter Day Seven takeaways from California's recall election Live coverage: California voters to decide Newsom's fate 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation Woman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing 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 DurbinDick DurbinManchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema US gymnasts offer scathing assessment of FBI 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 ManafortDOJ investigating one-time Trump campaign adviser over alleged ties to Qatar: report Foreign lobbyists donated over M during 2020 election: report Former Mueller prosecutor representing Donoghue in congressional probes: report 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 (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 JohnsonDomestic extremists return to the Capitol GOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary 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 SullivanGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group Overnight Energy: Judge blocks permits for Alaska oil project 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 CollinsWelcome to ground zero of climate chaos A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate Bipartisan blip: Infrastructure deal is last of its kind without systemic change 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."