Battle lines clear as Judge Kavanaugh starts meetings with Senators

A day after President Donald Trump nominated federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, reaction to the pick broke sharply along party lines in Congress as Democrats swiftly denounced the choice, while Republicans gave strong support to Mr. Trump's selection to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"Brett Kavanaugh is not just a good nominee," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on the Senate floor. "Brett Kavanaugh is an exceptional nominee."

Meanwhile, across the street outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Senate Democrats gathered to pledge a loud opposition campaign against Kavanaugh.

"I'm going to fight this nomination with everything I've got," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, though Democrats will need help from Republicans in the Senate in order to derail Kavanaugh, arguing Mr. Trump's nominee would overturn Roe v Wade and aid GOP legal attacks against the Obama health law.

As for the nominee, Kavanaugh arrived just before lunch on Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the start of his courtesy calls with Senators in both parties, escorted by Vice President Mike Pence, who labeled Kavanaugh, a "man of impeccable credentials and character."

After days of intrigue on who the President would choose for the Supreme Court, there were no early signs in the halls of the U.S. Capitol of second-guessing among Republicans on the President's pick.

"Judge Kavanaugh has an outstanding career, I'm excited by his nomination," said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).

"He appears to have an impeccable record," said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) of the 53 year-old Kavanaugh. "He's youthful, which I think is important for the history of the court, and the longevity of the court."

"Brett Kavanaugh is a qualified, mainstream jurist who possesses the right temperament and experience for the position," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

"Judge Kavanaugh has an impressive background," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). "He is highly regarded as a fair-minded and independent judge and is clearly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court."

"Judge Brett Kavanaugh is an impressive and qualified nominee to be considered for the Supreme Court," said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).

There are probably three Republican Senators to watch on Kavanaugh - Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who told reporters that he is 'keeping an open mind,' along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

While Republicans praised Kavanaugh, the judge's critics were just as certain of their position.

"Nothing is more important now than doing everything in our power to stop the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

"Brett Kavanaugh's record indicates that he would be among the most conservative justices in Supreme Court history," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). "His views are far outside the mainstream and there’s every reason to believe he would overturn Roe v. Wade."

"This is not a drill," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). "Brett Kavanaugh is as bad as it gets."

While Democrats might be able to slow down the proceedings on Kavanaugh, they can't stop the judge on their own in the Senate - with filibusters no longer in order against Supreme Court nominees, Democrats will need Republicans to switch sides.

Mr. Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, won the support of all Republicans, as well as three Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN). All three are up for re-election this November.

The partisan start to this nomination didn't concern one Republican.

"Every morning somebody wakes up in the Senate mad," said Sen. Isakson of Georgia. "So, we have a fight going on to just about anything to include whether we adjourn some days."

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