President Donald Trump announced Brett Kavanaugh as his next Supreme Court nominee on July 9 — and the fight for Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation is well underway.
Many Democrats and Republicans have already broken along party lines on Kavanaugh. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Kavanaugh’s “sterling academic record” and “exemplary judicial temperament,” and other Republicans were similarly quick to praise the nominee. Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who has often opposed the president, hailed Kavanaugh as “a serious jurist known for careful deliberation.”
Democrats, meanwhile, have largely spoken out against Kavanaugh’s nomination. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said in a statement that Kavanaugh’s nomination “represents a direct and fundamental threat to [the Supreme Court’s] promise of equality,” while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to “oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have.”
Some of their Senate colleagues, however, have not been as clear in their views of the potential Supreme Court justice. A handful of Republicans and Democrats could potentially break with their parties to provide key swing votes in Kavanaugh’s confirmation — and with just a simple majority of votes needed to confirm Kavanaugh, every vote counts.
Here’s where nine key Senators who could provide crucial swing votes currently stand on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Susan Collins (R-Maine): One of the most closely watched votes will be from moderate Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who said prior to Kavanaugh’s nomination she would oppose a candidate who would overturn Roe v. Wade — something many have speculated Kavanaugh could do.
Following Kavanaugh’s nomination, Collins — who voted for Kavanaugh’s District Court nomination — praised Kavanaugh’s experience, but signaled her vote is still under consideration.
“It will be very difficult for anyone to argue that he’s not qualified for the job. He clearly is qualified for the job,” Collins said Tuesday, according to Politico. “But there are other issues involving judicial temperament and his political, or rather, his judicial philosophy that also will play into my decision.”
Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): The other crucial Republican swing vote is pro-abortion rights Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who appears to still be reserving judgement on Kavanaugh.
“While I have not met Judge Kavanaugh, I look forward to sitting down for a personal meeting with him. I intend to review Judge Kavanaugh’s decisions on the bench and writings off the bench, and pay careful attention to his responses to questions posed by my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Murkowski said in a statement.
“I intend to carefully consider [the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary’s] rating, the information obtained through personal meetings, my own review of Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications and record and the views of Alaskans in determining whether or not to support him,” Murkowski continued. “My standard for reviewing Supreme Court nominees remains rigorous and exacting.”
Like Collins, however, Murkowski also voted for Kavanaugh’s District Court spot and suggested an openness to Kavanaugh based on his experience.
“Let’s put it this way: There were some who have been on the list that I would have had a very, very difficult time supporting, just based on what was already publicly known about them,” Murkowski said in an interview with Politico on July 9. “We’re not dealing with that.”
Rand Paul (R-Ky.): Libertarian Sen. Rand Paul has suggested he could have grounds to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Though the Senator said he had an “open mind” about Kavanaugh following his nomination, Paul said Sunday on Fox and Friends that he was “worried” about Kavanaugh’s record on constitutional privacy rights. The Supreme Court nominee previously ruled that a government surveillance program was in line with the Fourth Amendment.
“I’m concerned about Kavanaugh. We’re going to hopefully have an open and long and far-ranging conversation about this,” Paul said Sunday on Fox News.
“There are ... 10 amendments listed in the Bill of Rights, and so the Fourth Amendment’s one of them, so we’re already down one,” Paul said. “Let’s see how he does on the other nine.”
Dean Heller (R-Nev.): With a tough re-election vote in November ahead of him, Nevada Senator Dean Heller could waver in his support of Kavanaugh. However, despite pressure from his constituents — the state voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 — the Republican senator has seemingly stood in line with Trump. Heller accepted Trump’s invitation to attend the nomination announcement and said in a statement that Kavanaugh has “demonstrated a commitment to interpreting the law — not making it.”
Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): One of the most likely Democrats to potentially break rank is Manchin, who faces re-election in November in a state that voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 41-point margin. Manchin, who voted for previous Trump nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch, is encouraging constituents to send him their thoughts on Kavanaugh’s nomination, establishing a special website and email address for them to do so.
“The Supreme Court will ultimately decide if nearly 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions will lose their health care. This decision will directly impact almost 40% of my state, so I’m very interested in his position on protecting West Virginians with pre-existing conditions,” Manchin said about Kavanaugh’s nomination in a statement.
“As I have always said, I believe the Senate should hold committee hearings; Senators should meet with him, we should debate his qualifications on the Senate floor and cast whatever vote we believe he deserves. I look forward to meeting with Judge Kavanaugh, examining his rulings and making a determination of whether to provide my consent.”
The West Virginia senator has made it clear, however, that he is perfectly willing to resist Schumer’s pressure for Democrats to unite against Kavanaugh.
“I’ll be 71 years old in August, you’re going to whip me? Kiss my you-know-what,” Manchin told Politico when asked if Schumer could influence his vote.
Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.): Another red-state Democrat facing re-election is Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who also voted for Gorsuch’s confirmation.
Donnelly said in a statement that he will “carefully review and consider the record and qualifications of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.” Like Manchin, Donnelly is also expected to consider the views of his constituents, a majority of whom voted for Trump.
“I work for the people of Indiana and I want them to have a voice in this,” Donnelly told WNDU.
Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.): The third Democrat to vote for Gorsuch was Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota also vying for re-election in November. The senator, who faced rallies outside her office from the anti-abortion-rights group Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement she would “thoroughly review and vet [Kavanaugh’s] record” and that she “take[s] this job incredibly seriously.”
“I have no doubt that many members of Congress and outside groups will announce how they stand on the nominee before doing their due diligence and instead just take a partisan stance — but that isn’t how I work,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “An exhaustive and fair process took place for Justice (Neil) Gorsuch, who I supported, and it should and must take place again now.”
Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.): Missouri Democrat McCaskill sent out a poll on Tuesday asking supporters about their views on key issues that Kavanaugh’s nomination will confront, including Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act, the Associated Press reported. Like many of her other Democratic colleagues that could provide swing votes, McCaskill faces re-election in November in a state that voted for Trump by nearly 19 points.
“I look forward to thoroughly examining Judge Kavanaugh’s record in the coming weeks as the Senate considers his nomination to replace Justice Kennedy,” McCaskill said in a statement, which also noted she has voted for more than two-thirds of Trump’s judicial nominations since he took office.
Doug Jones (D-Ala.): The newest red-state Democrat to ascend to the Senate is Sen. Doug Jones, who won Alabama’s high-profile special election in December. While his victory was hailed by Democrats, however, he could break with the party with a vote in favor of Kavanaugh.
Prior to Kavanaugh’s nomination, Jones said on CNN that he would make an independent judgement of the nominee, saying, “I don’t think my role is to rubber stamp for the president, but it’s also not an automatic knee-jerk no, either.”
“I don’t think anyone should expect me to simply vote yes for this nominee, just simply because my state may be more conservative than others,” Jones said on CNN.
Since Kavanaugh’s nomination, Jones has remained evasive about his judgement of the nominee.
“I’ve got thoughts, but I’m not going to say,” Jones told reporters, according to the Hill.
“I’m going to do a deep dive of his record and we’ll talk about that record,” Jones added. “I’ll make my judgment at that point.”