WASHINGTON (CN) – Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faced questions about abortion rights, executive power and the federal health care law during hours of meetings with senators on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Kavanaugh’s day began with a 10:30 a.m. meeting with Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine whose vote is considered key in the push for Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.
Collins and Kavanaugh met in Collins’ office, and Collins told reporters after the meeting that they discussed abortion rights, executive power and a host of other issues.
A supporter of abortion rights herself, Collins has said she would not back a nominee “who demonstrated hostility” to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. She said that in her discussion with Kavanaugh, he agreed with Chief Justice John Roberts’ contention that the landmark case is “settled law.”
“Judge Kavanaugh and I had an excellent session,” Collins said. “It was very productive, it was very informative, we covered a wide range of issues and I look forward to his upcoming hearings in the Judiciary Committee.”
While acknowledging that she has expressed concerns about Kavanaugh’s record, Collins said she will wait until after his confirmation hearing early next month to decide whether to support his nomination.
“You never know what questions are going to come up at a Judiciary Committee hearing, where 21 individuals will be questioning him,” Collins said. “But for more than two hours we covered a wide range of issues and it was very helpful, very productive and very informative.”
Later in the day, Kavanaugh met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, for an hour and a half, where abortion rights came up again, amongst discussion that also included issues such as executive power and voting rights. But Schumer said Kavanaugh did not tell him Roe v. Wade is settled law.
Schumer added that Kavanaugh “would not say yes” when asked if he believed the Supreme Court correctly decided Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. While the 1973 decision in Roe found a constitutional right to abortion, Casey reaffirmed that right in 1992.
Schumer said Kavanaugh often avoided answering his questions directly, saying he could not talk about cases that might come before the court when the senator asked about real controversies, and that he could not comment on hypothetical cases when Schumer posed one. This complaint echoed those Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have raised about Trump’s nominees to lower courts.
“Nominees have to be able to answer questions with sufficient substance to give the senators comfort that once on the bench they would not upend centuries of precedent and disturb the well-established rights of the American people,” Schumer told reporters after his meeting. “In our meeting, Judge Kavanaugh was unwilling, or unable, to provide that comfort to me or the American people.”
The fight over Kavanaugh in the Senate has largely centered on Democrats’ dissatisfaction with their ability to review documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House. Schumer said Kavanaugh often demurred when asked about specific issues he worked on while serving as President George W. Bush’s staff secretary.
“His lack of recollection on almost everything didn’t ring true,” Schumer said. “This is a bright man, he recalls a lot, but on every key question like those, he said, ‘I couldn’t recall.'”