After meeting with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh Thursday morning, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey said Kavanaugh has the “character, intellect, and experience to be a great Supreme Court Justice."
Speaking with reporters after what he called "a delightful conversation," with Kavanaugh, Toomey said he will enthusiastically support Donald Trump's pick for the court.
Kavanaugh would be replacing retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, who's been a swing vote on issues like gay marriage. His replacement will likely shape the court's ideological tilt for the next generation. That has raised Democratic fears -- and Republican hopes -- that Kavanaugh could overturn precendents on a wide swath of issues, ranging from abortion to voting rights.
In particular, Democrats worry Kavanaugh, who appears to favor a strong executive branch, might help torpedo an ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interfrence in the 2016 election. Sparking those fears are recently unearthed statements in which Kavanaugh suggested the Supreme Court may have been wrong to require the release of the Watergate tapes, which helped bring down Richard Nixon.
Toomey, who as at times been critical of Trump on issues involving Russia, brushed those concerns aside in his conference call with reporters. Kavanaugh "was very, very adamant and spoke very eloquently and clearly that absolutely no one is above the law, and that includes the president,” he said.
Toomey said Kavanaugh supported the court's decision in U.S. v. Nixon decision, and called it one of the four most important decisions the court has made in American history.
When asked about Kavanaugh’s view of abortion rights, Toomey said they didn’t go into too much detail, but said Kavanaugh has written extensively about the importance of precedent. Abortion rights have been protected by one such precedent, Roe V. Wade, for more than 40 years. Toomey opposes abortion rights.
Toomey's positive impression of Kavanaugh is no surprise. He's spoken warmly of Kavanaugh well before Thursday's meeting. During a teleconference with voters last week, he said the nominee "appears at this point to me to be a terrific candidate."
Toomey's Democratic counterpart, Bob Casey, ruled out the possibility of voting for Kavanaugh even before he was nominated. Just before Trump announced his pick, Casey said any selection represented a "corrupt bargain," because Trump was picking from a list of candidates that had been vetted and approved by the conservative Heritage Foundation. "Any judge on this list is fruit of a corrupt process straight from the D.C. swamp," read a statement from Casey.
A Casey spokeswoman said that despite that position, Casey would be willing to meet with Kavanaugh, but added that as of mid-day Thursday, the White House had not reached out to set up a meeting.
Republicans hope to confirm Kavanaugh before the midterm elections in November. Toomey said that while there’s no date scheduled for his hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee, he imagined that a hearing will take place in late August or early September, with a confirmation vote in September or October.