Kavanaugh tells senator Roe v. Wade is settled law

Dustin Weaver and Lisa Mascaro
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Tuesday said he agrees that the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights is settled law, according to Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine who is a key swing vote on his nomination.

Collins held a two-hour meeting with Kavanaugh in her office that she called “very informative.”

“We talked at great length about precedent and the application of stare decisis to abortion cases,” Collins said, using the legal term for letting precedent stand. “We talked about executive power. We talked about the Heller gun decision. We talked about his judicial philosophy. We talked about which judges he admires most or he feels most similar to.”

Collins also said she pressed Kavanaugh on whether he considers Roe v. Wade to be established law.

“He said that he agreed with what (Chief Justice) John Roberts said at his nomination hearing, in which he said that it was settled law.”

That answer could be crucial for Kavanaugh’s chances of being confirmed. Collins supports abortion rights and has vowed to oppose any nominee who has “demonstrated hostility” to Roe v. Wade.

Majority: Republicans have a narrow 50-49 majority in the Senate because of the absence of ailing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and can’t afford a single defection on Kavanaugh if every Democrat votes no.

Collins said she would not make a decision on whether to vote for him until after the Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearings after Labor Day. Yet she has spoken highly of the judge, praising his qualifications.

The meeting with Collins kicked off a busy day for Kavanaugh, an appellate court judge who is making the rounds on Capitol Hill for courtesy calls to Senate Democrats.

One key meeting Tuesday will be with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who says he’ll ask Kavanaugh to fully support releasing documents from the Bush White House that Republicans have declined to review.

Schumer said he will ask Kavanaugh, as he has Republicans, “What are they hiding?” He expects the judge to be able to fully explain his record. “I hope he comes prepared to answer direct questions,” he said.

Democrats complain that Republicans are withholding documents in their rush to confirm Trump’s pick for the court ahead of the midterm elections.

Kavanagh, 53, is a conservative who, in replacing retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, could tip the court rightward for a generation.

Several Democratic women senators joined with advocates for women’s health care Tuesday to talk about the stakes of adding Kavanaugh to the court, particularly when it comes to access to abortion services.

“This is a wakeup call,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. “Do not take this moment lightly.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., also said Kavanaugh should have no problem releasing all his writings and documents. “Why would he be complicit with this administration in hiding all of this paper that’s out there?” she asked.

Kavanaugh has already met with most Republicans but his meeting with Collins, and a meeting expected later this month with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will be crucial. Both senators both support access to abortion services.

Kavanaugh was set to meet with other Democrats on Tuesday as he steps up his outreach to that side of the aisle.