Though Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s written opinions in cases related to abortion rights, health care and a whole plethora of issues have raised the alarm bells and mobilized plenty of progressive groups, Alaska U.S. Sen. Murkowski’s response has been muted.
In one interview since the announcement, Alaska’s senior senator said there were plenty of names circulating that would have been non-starters, but that’s not the case for Kavanaugh.
“Let’s put it this way: There were some who have been on the list that I would have had a very, very difficult time supporting, just based on what was already publicly known about them,” Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in an interview. “We’re not dealing with that.”
That statement, along with other recent interviews are starting to paint a picture that Murkowski isn’t likely to be the moderate ally Democrats are hoping to win over in order to block the Trump nominee’s appointment, at least right now.
Murkowski’s pledged a “rigorous and exacting” review of Kavanaugh that includes poring over his record on the bench, reviewing the input of legal experts and taking input from Alaskans.
However, she’s already already downplaying concerns that Kavanaugh’s appointment could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which has been seen by many progressives as the most effective line of attack to turn the pro-abortion rights Republican against Kavanaugh.
“What I believe I have to do now as one who has the privilege of voting on this role of advise and consent, is to determine whether Judge Kavanaugh will do what I think most Americans expect him to do, which is to basically follow that law, interpret the law, not create new law, not be that activist judge,” she said in an interview with Alaska Public Media and the Anchorage Daily News. “So I’m going to do the work that I have to do.”
The simple statement that Roe v. Wade is the “law of the land”–a statement Kavanaugh has already made in seems to be enough to appease any concerns of Murkowski. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch had a similar line during questioning during his confirmation process and won Murkowski’s vote.
Though Trump has frequently said that overturning Roe v. Wade would be a key goal in any of his appointments, she went on to tell the Alaska reporters that she had personally asked Trump not to quiz Kavanaugh about his stance on the landmark ruling.
“And I had a very direct conversation with the president about this 10 days or so ago, before I went back up to the state, and suggested to him that it would be inappropriate to even raise that direct ask as to where an individual would come down on Roe v. Wade,” she said. “He confirmed that he had not and would not.”
With an answer already seemingly in-hand on the question of Kavanaugh’s credentials when it comes to Roe v. Wade, opponents to Kavanaugh will likely have to turn to input from Alaskans.
In her initial statement about Kavanaugh, Murkowski said she would weight the input of Alaskans carefully, but in the interview with Alaska media she hedged a bit on the importance of public input.
“I don’t think I said that it was the most important thing. I think that I factored in – I will factor in – what Alaskans have to say,” she said in response to a question about public input, before turning most of her attention to the input the American Bar Association has on Kavanaugh. “I will review the ratings, because that again goes to a host of different factors, that essentially assess the qualification, the criteria, the reputation that he has amongst a legal network and that’s something that Alaskans can’t really give me, and I can’t really get.”
Already, crowds have protested outside Murkowski’s office, calling for a rejection of any far-right pick for the court. One protest was held before the announcement of Kavanaugh, a position that many congressional Democrats have already taken and one that’s “annoyed” Murkowski.
“And I will say… I’m a little annoyed that some of my colleagues, even before the president laid down Judge Kavanaugh’s name, had already determined that they were going to vote against whomever,” she said in the interview with Alaska media.
Taken together, it’s unclear just what might sway Murkowski into the realm of opposing Kavanaugh. In her interview with Alaska media, she referenced his work with the Bush administration as well as one of the members of the Kenneth Starr investigation into President Bill Clinton as things that should be reviewed, but said she wasn’t sure if it should slow down the confirmation process.
The nomination process for Kavanaugh is already moving quickly. U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan announced today that he’ll be meeting with Kavanaugh on Thursday morning.