FILE - In this July 18, 2018, file photo, Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh smiles during a meeting with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kavanaugh says he recognizes that gun, drug and gang violence "has plagued all of us." Still, he believes the Constitution limits how far government can go to restrict gun use to prevent violent crime (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Sen. Rand Paul backs Kavanaugh ahead of Manchin meeting

July 30, 2018 - 4:53 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who had publicly wavered as to whether he would support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, endorsed him Monday.

Paul of Kentucky says he will back Kavanaugh despite misgivings about the judge's views on surveillance and privacy issues. Few had expected Paul would oppose President Donald Trump's choice in the end.

The endorsement gave Kavanaugh a boost as he sat down for two hours Monday afternoon with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of a handful of Democratic senators seen as potential swing votes in the confirmation fight. It was Kavanaugh's first meeting with a Democratic senator.

Manchin has said he's interested in Kavanaugh's views on the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The senator also asked West Virginia residents to send him questions for the meeting.

Manchin was one of three Democrats who voted to confirm Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota were the others. All three are up for re-election in states Trump easily won in 2016.

Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate. With the absence of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is fighting brain cancer, they cannot afford to lose a single Republican vote if all Democrats vote "no."

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are the only two Republicans viewed as possible no votes on Kavanaugh's confirmation. Both say they haven't made a decision yet. Both senators support abortion rights, and liberal advocacy groups are arguing that Kavanaugh's confirmation would undermine Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision.

Paul had let Trump know he preferred other potential Supreme Court nominees he viewed as more conservative. He had expressed concern over Kavanaugh's record on warrantless bulk collection of data and how that might apply to important privacy cases.

Paul, who met with Kavanaugh last week, said he hoped Kavanaugh "will be more open to a Fourth Amendment that protects digital records and property."

Yet he also said his vote doesn't hinge on any one issue. "I believe he will carefully adhere to the Constitution and will take his job to protect individual liberty seriously," Paul said.

Republicans hope to confirm Trump's nominee by fall. Democrats are objecting to holding a vote without being able to review all of the records from his tenure at the White House.

Late last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chairman, announced he was requesting documents from Kavanaugh's time at the White House counsel's office, not the staff secretary job, which could entail millions of documents.

Democrats say that could leave out some of Kavanaugh's most important work.

"What are they hiding? Why shouldn't we see what that record's about?" Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday on the Senate floor.

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