WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. Senate Democrat on Tuesday vowed an all-out fight against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee as Judge Brett Kavanaugh headed to Capitol Hill seeking support, with Democrats aiming to seize on the confirmation battle ahead of the November midterm election.
“I will oppose this nominee with everything that I’ve got,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told MSNBC the morning after Trump announced the conservative federal appeals court judge as his nominee for the lifetime position on the nine-member high court.
Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, meaning Democrats cannot stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation if no Republicans break ranks.
In several television interviews, Schumer highlighted potential future Supreme Court action overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion nationwide and ending protections under the Affordable Care Act healthcare law as he tried to build the case for opposing Kavanaugh.
“If we can prove these two points to the American people – that he will repeal Roe and women’s reproduction freedom, that he will repeal ACA and … the right to protect pre-existing (medical) conditions, then we will get a majority in the Senate to vote against him,” Schumer added.
Asked on Tuesday whether he had discussed the issue of abortion with Kavanaugh before nominating him, Trump said, “No, I haven’t. I really haven’t. We haven’t discussed it.”
Kavanaugh, a judge for 12 years on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is due on Tuesday to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has vowed a speedy vote on the nomination and offered new praise for the nominee on Tuesday. Vice President Mike Pence, who holds a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, will also participate, according to the White House.
Democrats are seeking to seize control of Congress from the Republicans in the November elections. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month showed that the battle over Trump’s Supreme Court nominee could be a powerful motivator for voters, particularly Democrats.
All the seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate is up for grabs in the November election.
Kavanaugh, 53, has served on the appeals court since 2006, offering an extensive judicial record that is likely to be revisited at Senate hearings. [L1N1U602Y]
White House spokesman Raj Shah, asked whether that could slow the confirmation, said he expected Kavanaugh to be approved within about two months, just like previous Supreme Court nominees. The court’s new term begins in October.
“Democrats are going to look for any reason that they can poke and find to try to delay this nomination,” Shah told reporters, calling a 66-day timeline “a pretty good benchmark.”
Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Will Dunham