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Senators weigh in on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh listens to

Federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh listens to President Donald Trump announce him as his nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.   Credit: Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — Democrats and Republicans wasted no time Monday night weighing in on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as they prepared for a contentious confirmation fight over the future of the nation’s highest court.

Soon after Trump introduced Kavanaugh, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that the nominee would reverse the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. “Judge Kavanaugh’s own writings make clear that he would rule against reproductive rights and freedoms, and that he would welcome challenges to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act,” he said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised Kavanaugh as a “superb choice . . . his judicial record demonstrates a firm understanding of the role of a judge in our Republic: Setting aside personal views and political preferences in order to interpret our laws as they are written.”

The fight is expected to be a galvanizing force for both sides before midterm elections in November. But the confirmation process in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority, will center around a handful of moderate senators.

The moderate Democrats and Republicans said they’d wait until hearings to make a decision.

Democrats and liberal allies hope to flip two moderate Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Republicans and conservative backers plan to target four Democrats, who represent states that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. That includes West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly and Alabama Sen. Doug Jones.

Collins said Kavanaugh “has impressive credentials and extensive experience. ... I will conduct a careful, thorough vetting of the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court, as I have done with the five previous Supreme Court Justices whom I have considered.”

Manchin said he’d pay particular attention to Kavanaugh’s record on health care because he said the “Supreme Court will ultimately decide if nearly 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions will lose their health care.”

Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he’s a “no.” He said Trump’s Supreme Court pick was “screened and vetted by extreme right-wing groups that have made this president their puppet.”

Jones signaled Monday night he was open to Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“A thorough vetting of Judge Kavanaugh’s body of work will be critical for the Senate to fulfill its shared responsibility — which I take very seriously. I will be diligent in measuring the record and in undertaking an independent review,” Jones wrote on Twitter.

A simple majority in the Senate is needed for confirmation.

The White House invited the four Democrats to attend Monday’s announcement, though they declined.

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