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Kavanaugh visits Capitol Hill; Senate Democrats say he must make his case

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- As Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh made his first appearances on Capitol Hill Tuesday, several Senate Democrats said Tuesday that the judge had to make his case for their support.

For instance, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont is a senior member of the Judiciary Committee that will oversee Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing. He pressed Republicans to use their own standard for Elena Kagan, now a Supreme Court Justice nominated by former President Barack Obama.

Judiciary members should seek "all of his writings and memos from his time at the White House. And, of course, Republicans said they had to do that with Elena Kagan," Leahy said, noting that search turned up "hundreds of thousands of pages."

"And I agreed with them," he told reporters Tuesday. "So, I'm sure they wouldn't want to have a different standard for him than they had for her." Kagan worked in the Clinton White House and was solicitor general under Obama; Kavanaugh worked in both the elder and younger Bushes' White Houses.

At one point around the time the nominee was upstairs meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., one of the vulnerable Senate Democrats the White House has signaled it will lean on, North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp, walked quickly -- practically jogging -- to get to her next destination as a throng of reporters asked about Kavanaugh.

Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who soon will cast his first vote on a Supreme Court nominee, appeared bemused that reporters wanted to know his views of Kavanaugh and his extensive paper trail of policy views and legal opinions less than 24 hours after Trump revealed him as his pick.

"I want to do my investigative work," the former U.S. attorney said as reporters followed him up an escalator.

Before Pence and Kavanaugh arrived at the Capitol, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Roll Call he got a call from Trump about the nomination before the president departed for a weeklong European swing.

"I talked to him this morning. He was very pleased with his pick. And I said, 'You should be,'" Graham said. "This guy is sort of a once-in-a-generation legal mind. I said, 'You've given us a lot to work with here, Mr. President, it was really a home run pick.'"

With Democrats releasing a fleet of statements either declaring immediate opposition or deep skepticism about Kavanaugh's previous writings, decisions and policy stances, Graham issued something of a warning to the opposition party.

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