Democrats make a final push to block Kavanaugh

AP, WASHINGTON

Sat, Sep 08, 2018 - Page 7

US Senate Democrats on Thursday mounted a last, ferocious attempt to paint Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a foe of abortion rights and a likely defender of US President Donald Trump if he makes it to the high court.

However, their chances of blocking Trump’s nominee seemed to fade away by the end of a second marathon day of testimony in his confirmation hearing.

Questioning of the 53-year-old appellate judge wound down without him revealing much about his judicial stances or making any serious mistakes that might jeopardize his confirmation.

In what almost seemed like a celebration, Kavanaugh’s two daughters returned to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room for the final hours of testimony, accompanied by teammates on Catholic school basketball teams their father has coached.

The hearing pivoted during the day to Roe v. Wade, the high court’s landmark abortion case. The Democrats’ best hope of stopping Kavanaugh — who could swing the court further to the right for decades — would be branding him as a justice who might vote to overturn the ruling, attracting the votes of two Republican senators who support abortion rights.

A newly disclosed e-mail suggested he once indicated the abortion case was not settled law, though Kavanaugh denied in the hearing that he had been expressing his personal views on the issue.

The tone in the e-mail from 2003 contrasted with his responses to questions on Wednesday, when he stressed how difficult it is to overturn precedents like Roe.

In the e-mail, Kavanaugh was reviewing a potential op-ed article in support of two judicial nominees while he was working at then-US president George W. Bush’s White House.

The document had been held by the committee as confidential, but was made public on Thursday.

“I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so,” Kavanaugh wrote, referring to justices at the time, in an e-mail to a Republican Senate aide.

The document was partially redacted.

Asked about it by the committee’s top Democrat, US Senator Dianne Feinstein, Kavanaugh reiterated his previous testimony that “Roe v. Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court.”

Democrats also hammered at Kavanaugh’s ability to separate himself from Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Throughout his testimony, Kavanaugh has repeatedly insisted he fully embraces the importance of judicial independence.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin put the focus on Trump, who Durbin said, “has shown contempt for the federal judiciary and has shown disrespect for the rule of law over and over again.”

“It’s in the context of the Trump presidency that we ask you these questions,” Durbin said.

Kavanaugh refused to answer questions about Trump or commit to stepping aside from any case about the Russia investigation that might come to the Supreme Court.

When Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal invited him to denounce Trump’s criticism of federal judges, the nominee demurred.

“The way we stand up is by deciding cases and controversies independently without fear or favor,” Kavanaugh said.