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Pence turns up the heat on Missouri’s Sen. McCaskill as Supreme Court battle kicks off


Vice President Pence on Wednesday put pressure on Sen. Claire McCaskill to support President Trump’s latest pick for the Supreme Court, using a speech in McCaskill’s home state of Missouri to hammer the vulnerable Democrat for her opposition to Trump’s first nominee last year.

“Today, we call on Senator Claire McCaskill, put politics aside, give our nominee a fair hearing and vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the newest justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Pence said in Kansas City.

Pence made the remarks two days after Trump unveiled Brett M. Kavanaugh as his choice to succeed retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

McCaskill, who is in the midst of a tough reelection battle and last year voted against the confirmation of Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil M. Gorsuch, has so far sounded a cautious note on Kavanaugh, saying she plans to thoroughly examine his record before coming to a decision.

“When the president’s first nominee to the Supreme Court came before the Senate last year, Claire McCaskill joined Chuck Schumer and voted ‘no’ on Neil Gorsuch,” Pence said. He referred to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is a frequent foil for Republicans on the campaign trail.

Ahead of Trump’s announcement Monday night, several Democrats came out in opposition to any nominee picked from the president’s previously announced list of 25 judges. McCaskill was not among them, but that did not stop Pence from seizing on their opposition as an example of “the kind of obstruction that the American people have had enough of from Washington, D.C.”

Pence cast the choice facing McCaskill as one between “whether she’s going to stand with Chuck Schumer and her obstructionist party or whether she’s going to stand with the people of Missouri and support the most qualified and most deserving nominee to the Supreme Court in the country.”

Eric Mee, McCaskill’s campaign press secretary, responded by noting the senator’s past support for Trump’s other judicial nominees and describing McCaskill as someone who “works across the aisle to get things done for Missouri families.”

“Claire has voted for two-thirds of President Trump’s judicial nominees and — just like with those nominees — she will examine Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications as she considers his nomination,” Mee said in a statement.

McCaskill, a two-term Democrat, is running for reelection in a state that Trump won by 19 percentage points in 2016. Her likely Republican opponent in November, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, last week called the Supreme Court “the defining issue of this campaign.”

Trump weighed in again on the Supreme Court fight Wednesday evening, urging Democrats to focus on winning elections rather than opposing his nominees.

“If the Democrats want to win Supreme Court and other Court picks, don’t Obstruct and Resist, but rather do it the good ol’ fashioned way, WIN ELECTIONS!” Trump said in a tweet from Brussels, on the first leg of his week-long Europe trip.

Pence’s remarks came as part of a Midwestern swing that was scheduled to take him later Wednesday to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as he seeks to shore up support for Republican House candidates while also tamping down concerns over Trump’s trade policies.

In a speech that covered a broad variety of issues, Pence notably devoted several minutes to the judicial branch, a topic that energized Republican voters in 2016 and was instrumental in Trump’s victory. Pence on Wednesday touted Trump’s success in securing the confirmation of more federal appeals court judges than any other president in his first 12 months, hailing those judges as “all conservative men and women.”

Later, however, Pence was careful to steer clear of any overt description of Kavanaugh’s political leanings, describing the judge as “a principled jurist who will interpret the Constitution as written and not legislate from the bench.”





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