Kavanaugh begins Congress tour, selling himself for court


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, mapped out strategy with Republican leaders Tuesday, launching a fierce confirmation battle that could remake the court for decades and roil the midterm elections in the meantime.

Kavanaugh, a favorite of the GOP establishment, first huddled with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He was then meeting with Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee chairman. Joining him were Vice President Mike Pence and former Sen. Jon Kyl, seeking the GOP backing he will need to be confirmed in the divided Senate.

Republicans have reacted positively to Trump’s pick, but McConnell has little margin of error in the final vote unless a few Democrats can be brought onboard. Republicans hold a slim 51-49 Senate majority, and pressure is mounting on Democrats from states that Trump won in 2016 to cross party lines for support.

McConnell called Kavanaugh “one of the most thoughtful jurists” in the country and blasted Democrats as “eager to try and turn judicial confirmations into something like political elections.” The GOP leader warned against engaging in “cheap political fear-mongering.”

“We’ll hear all kinds of fantastic stories about the pain and suffering that this perfectly qualified, widely respected judge will somehow unleash on America if we confirm him to the court,” McConnell said.

Pence called Kavanaugh a “good man.”

Democrats are uniting behind a strategy to turn the confirmation fight into a referendum on conservatives’ efforts to undo abortion access and chip away at other health care protections under the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York is vowing to fight the nomination “with everything I have.”

Schumer warned, “In selecting Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump did exactly what he said he would do on the campaign trail — nominate someone who will overturn women’s reproductive rights and strike down health care protections for millions of Americans.”

Trump chose Kavanaugh, a solidly conservative, politically connected judge, as he seeks to shift the nation’s highest court ever further to the right.

A product of the Republican legal establishment in Washington, Kavanaugh, 53, is a former law clerk for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Like Trump’s first nominee last year, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh would be a young addition who could help remake the court for decades with rulings that could restrict abortion, expand gun rights and roll back key parts of” Obamacare.”

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