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Hoeven backs Kavanaugh for US Supreme Court; Heitkamp plans meeting with nominee

Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Supreme Court associate justice nominee for President Donald Trump, walks through the U.S. Capitol in Washington on July 10, 2018. Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

BISMARCK — North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven said he’ll support Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court after meeting with him Wednesday, Aug. 1, as Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp announced she would meet the nominee in two weeks.

Hoeven said Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge, is “highly qualified” and has a “deep respect for the Constitution.”

“Given his years of experience on the bench and his commitment to upholding the law, I believe that Judge Kavanaugh is a solid choice for the Supreme Court and I look forward to supporting his confirmation to serve on the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement.

Amid her tight re-election fight, Heitkamp has faced pressure from conservatives to support Kavanaugh's confirmation just as she did for President Donald Trump's first pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch. But liberal groups have also been mounting an effort to oppose Kavanaugh, warning he could solidify a conservative majority on the nation's highest court to remake a range of policies.

Heitkamp said she'll meet with Kavanaugh on Aug. 15 to learn about him, his judicial record and temperament. She indicated she won't make a decision before his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing as part of what she called a "thorough and exhaustive review,” although she said in an interview that he’s “well-qualified.”

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday he doesn’t expect to hold Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings until September, according to the Washington Post.

"As I've continued to say, one of the most important jobs of any U.S. senator is to fully vet any nominee to serve on the Supreme Court, the highest court in our land," Heitkamp said in a statement. "And that's exactly what I plan to do, just as I have for other Supreme Court nominees, including Justice Gorsuch."

The North Dakota Republican Party suggested Heitkamp was dragging her feet in meeting with Kavanaugh, noting that she met with two previous Supreme Court nominees sooner after their nomination. Heitkamp called that criticism “highly unfair” and said she’s been “completely transparent” about her desire to sit down with Kavanaugh and review his record.

Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, who's challenging Heitkamp this fall, doesn't have a formal say in Kavanaugh's confirmation but voiced his support for the judge shortly after Trump announced the pick last month.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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