President Donald Trump’s nomination on Monday of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court garnered a lot of praise, especially among Republicans.
It also puts Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in a tough spot.
Kavanaugh, 53, serves on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which often decides major challenges to federal laws and policies. If confirmed, he’s expected to create a conservative court with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. It’s unlikely he’ll be as much of a swing vote as Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to put the confirmation process on the fast track. It could be a close vote, with the Republicans holding a 51-49 majority in the Senate. At least one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, could be a no vote. She’s reluctant to support anyone who would vote to reverse Roe v. Wade. There are two or three other Republicans who could be on the fence.
So that makes Heitkamp’s vote important to both sides. Democrats can’t afford to lose any votes and Republicans may need some Democratic support to get Kavanaugh approved.
Even before Trump announced his choice, one group revealed plans to put pressure on Heitkamp to vote for the nominee. The Pro-life Court Coalition gathered outside Heitkamp’s Bismarck office on Tuesday to urge her to support Kavanaugh. The event is part of a national effort to get the nominee approved.
On Monday, the Republican National Committee issued a press release criticizing Heitkamp for turning down an invitation from Trump to attend his court announcement. This comes after Republicans attacked Heitkamp for attending a recent bill signing and standing close to the president.
Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Heitkamp’s opponent in this year’s Senate race, didn’t waste any time Monday night in supporting the nominee. In a press release, he said Kavanaugh shares the same values as North Dakotans and urged Heitkamp and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., to vote to confirm.
Hoeven in a press release stopped short of endorsing Kavanaugh. He said:
“Judge Kavanaugh’s record shows a deep respect for and strict interpretation of the Constitution. Throughout his judicial career, Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated a strong commitment to upholding the law, rather than legislating from the bench. I look forward to meeting with him as the confirmation process gets underway.”
While it’s likely Hoeven will vote to confirm, it makes sense to let the confirmation process play out. It’s possible something could happen that could hurt Kavanaugh’s chances.
Heitkamp went to Twitter to post a statement saying the work was just beginning to vet the nominee. She indicated she was undecided on Kavanaugh.
Cramer, as a member of the House, doesn’t get to vote on Kavanaugh. His quick endorsement, without any hearings or meetings, seems a little premature.
This could be a bitter fight in the Senate and along with the trade war could be a key factor in the Heitkamp-Cramer Senate race.
Heitkamp supported Trump’s previous nominee, Gorsuch, but the stakes are higher this time. The new court could reverse Roe v. Wade and Democrats will fight intensely to prevent that from happening. They will put a lot of pressure on Heitkamp to vote no.
Whatever Heitkamp decides it will be considered a political move. If she supports Kavanaugh she’ll be accused of putting her election ahead of women’s rights. If she votes no, she’ll be attacked for supporting abortion and staying in step with the Democratic leadership.
It appears to be a lose-lose situation for Heitkamp. Something could happen during the hearings, but it’s hard to believe that Heitkamp can please the majority. It’s going to be interesting to watch.