Murkowski in spotlight on Supreme Court nomination

President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of a conservative judge has already sparked a confirmation battle over an appointment that could shape the court for decades, and all eyes are now on how Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will vote.

Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, both have taken a strong stand on a woman’s right to choose on the abortion issue and both voted last year against repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Both Murkowski and Collins voted to support conservative justice Neil Gorsuch last year, and while their stance on Trump’s nomination of 53-year-old Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is unclear, both women declined an invitation to attend the Supreme Court announcement on the evening of July 9. Their individual decisions on a vote to confirm Kavanaugh could potentially tip the balance to help Democrats stonewall that nomination. Kavanaugh needs just 51 votes to be confirmed by the Senate.

Kavanaugh is no stranger to national politics. A Yale Law School graduate, his legal experience includes being part of the GOP legal team that fought to halt a recount of votes in Florida in 2000, clearing the way for George Bush’s election over Democrat Al Gore.

“While I have not met Judge Kavanaugh, I look forward to sitting down for a personal meeting with him,” Murkowski said. “I intend to review Judge Kavanaugh’s decisions on the bench and writings off the bench and pay careful attention to his responses to questions posed by my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

The Alaska Republican noted that the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary would also review Kavanaugh’s qualifications prior to these hearings and issue a rating which she intended to carefully consider.

Murkowski said further that she would consider that rating, the information obtained through personal meetings, her own review of Kavanaugh’s qualifications and record, and the views of Alaskans in determining whether or not to support him.

“My standard for reviewing Supreme Court nominees remains rigorous and exacting,” she said.

Collins issued a statement saying that Kavanaugh “has impressive credentials and extensive experience, having served more than a decade on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. I will conduct a careful, thorough vetting of the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court, as I have done with the five previous Supreme Court justices whom I have considered,” Collins said. “I look forward to Judge Kavanaugh’s public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to questioning him in a meeting in my office.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, issued a statement saying he has “had the pleasure of knowing Judge Brett Kavanaugh for some time – dating back to when we worked together in the Bush administration.

In his post on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, “he is known for applying the law and Constitution as written, upholding our Second Amendment rights, and having a healthy skepticism concerning the powers of federal administrative agencies,” said Sullivan, adding that he looked forward to reviewing the nominee’s record on the appeals court and discussing that and other important issues with him.

Americans for Prosperity-Alaska President Jeremy Price issued a statement calling Kavanaugh “an outstanding candidate who has displayed the proper temperament and boasts a sterling recording of judicial restraint – both vital when serving on the highest court.”

Price also noted that Americans for Prosperity would commit “seven-figures to paid advertising and grassroots engagement in support of Judge Kavanuagh confirmation and utilize all of our grassroots tactics, which include door-to-door canvassing and phone banking.”

AFP also plans to host events, tele-townhalls and Facebook live conversations with key lawmakers nationwide over the role of the courts.

Alaska Democratic Party Chair Casey Steinau issued a statement saying Kavanaugh is a nominee “who is expected to support an extreme, conservative agenda on the Supreme Court putting so many of our core values at risk.”

“Specifically, there is great concern about the potential for repealing Roe v. Wade and rolling back women’s rights when it comes to making their own health care decisions,” Steinau said.

“As Alaskans, we have always embraced our right to privacy and believe the government should not have a role in our personal choices, including health care,” she said. “That is why Alaska was ahead of the curve and legalized a woman’s right to choose in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade became law of the land.”

Steinau also said that Democrat Mark Begich is the only candidate running for governor of Alaska who is pro-choice and advocates for women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.