Updated 4:09 p.m. | Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, the Democrat leading Roll Call’s list of most vulnerable senators on the ballot this fall, announced Thursday that she’ll vote against confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
“The process has been bad, but at the end of the day you have to make a decision, and I’ve made that decision,” the North Dakota Democrat told WDAY, the ABC affiliate in Fargo, N.D. “I will be voting no on Judge Kavanaugh.”
In the interview with the local TV station, she conceded that supporting the choice of President Donald Trump would be more politically expedient.
“If this were a political decision for me, I certainly would be deciding this the other way,” Heitkamp said. “I can’t get up in the morning and look at the life experience that I’ve had and say yes to Judge Kavanaugh.”
In a statement about her decision, Heitkamp elaborated.
“As I said after Judge Kavanaugh was nominated, and as I’ve continued to say throughout this process, I consider vetting nominees to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court as one of the most important jobs of any U.S. senator — and I take that job very seriously,” she said. “That’s what North Dakotans expect of their senators, which is why I met with Judge Kavanaugh, closely watched his hearings, and reviewed his available record during this evaluation process — including the nonpartisan FBI investigation which I called for. After doing my due diligence and now that the record is apparently closed, I will vote against his confirmation.”
In the statement, Heitkamp also explained her decision to oppose Kavanaugh even though she backed Trump’s first nominee to the high court, Neil Gorsuch.
“I voted for Justice Gorsuch because I felt his legal ability and temperament qualified him to serve on the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh is different. When considering a lifetime appointment to Supreme Court, we must evaluate the totality of the circumstances and record before us. In addition to the concerns about his past conduct, last Thursday’s hearing called into question Judge Kavanaugh’s current temperament, honesty, and impartiality. These are critical traits for any nominee to serve on the highest court in our country,” she said.
Heitkamp’s decision to oppose elevating Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court means that Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia is the only member of the Democratic caucus potentially favoring the confirmation of Kavanaugh.
Her opponent, GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, pounced on Heitkamp’s decision.
“I’m deeply disappointed with Senator Heitkamp’s decision to vote no on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Clearly, she has decided to vote with Chuck Schumer, and not the people of North Dakota,” the at-large congressman said, referring to the Senate minority leader.
The North Dakota Democratic Party has targeted Cramer over his comments relating to allegations against Kavanaugh from Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee.
The state party launched a digital ad after last week’s hearing highlighting Cramer’s comments to a local news station that appeared to minimize the allegation.
“The point was there was not type of intercourse or anything like that. Nothing happened in terms of a sexual event beyond obviously the attack … Even if it’s all true, does it disqualify him?” Cramer said in the interview.
The party’s also highlighted Cramer’s past comments about women, including that Trump was favorable towards Heitkamp “because she was a woman.”