Democrats Continue Camera Shy Ways With Brett Kavanaugh

Senate courtesy meetings continue, but with nary a photo op

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh arrives to meet with Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., in the Hart Senate Office Building on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic senators have, at least from Republican states, started meeting with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but they are mostly avoiding the press when doing so. 

With senators back in town, meetings with President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court resumed Wednesday, with a pair of Democrats on the agenda.

But those two Democrats, each of whom voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the high court last year, opted against allowing press photographers or videographers in for the typical “sprays” of their meetings with Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana kicked off the Wednesday meetings, with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota to follow later in the day. Both followed the lead of West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III — who was the first member of the caucus to meet with Kavanaugh — in keeping the meetings closed to the press.

Kavanaugh is also scheduled to meet with GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin on Wednesday. Cameras are being invited in for a photo op at that meeting. 

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who is set to meet with Kavanaugh on Aug. 21, told reporters earlier this month that the Kavanaugh nomination “is not a ‘political winner.’” The calls and emails coming into her office are evenly split between those who want her to vote for and against the judge.

Kavanaugh has also yet to meet with Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, two Republicans targeted by Democrats and liberal advocacy groups as potential votes against Kavanaugh because of their prior stances on access to abortion and health care. Murkowski and Collins previously have said they would meet with Kavanaugh during the August session.

Republicans have only 50 votes right now because Sen. John McCain of Arizona is battling brain cancer at home. So if all Democrats oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, the loss of one Republican vote would sink it.

While senators were out of town for the shorter-than-normal August recess, Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, announced plans for confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh to start the day after Labor Day.

Todd Ruger contributed to this report.

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