- By Jack Torry Washington Bureau
Sen. Rob Portman helped prepare Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh Monday for what the Ohio Republican predicted would be “pretty contentious” confirmation hearings next month over President Donald Trump’s choice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy.
As Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Tuesday Kavanaugh told her he regards as settled law the 1973 court ruling asserting a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion, Portman said he and three other senators fired questions at Kavanaugh during a closed session in the Old Executive Building next to the White House.
In a conference call with reporters, Portman said he and “some of my colleagues are helping him to get him ready for what is likely to be some pretty contentious hearings coming up.”
Portman said it was “somewhat of a practice session, but it’s an opportunity to raise these issues because anything can come up in these hearings. I hope it was helpful for him. He did a great job and I think he’s going to do well in the hearings.”
Portman, who worked in the White House of President George W. Bush with Kavanaugh, said “he is a great choice as a Supreme Court nominee.”
” I like his legal philosophy, but I like him as a person,” Portman said. “He is a humble hard-working guy who is smart and he’s got the character and background to be a superb justice of the Supreme Court.”
Kavanaugh is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Kavanaugh met earlier with Collins, a supporter of abortion rights and a key vote in whether Kavanaugh will be confirmed. Collins told reporters she asked Kavanaugh on whether he considers Roe v. Wade to be established law.
“He said that he agreed with what (Chief Justice) Justice Roberts said at his nomination hearing, in which he said that it was settled law,” Collins said, referring to Roberts’ appearance in 2005 before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In Roe and the 1992 ruling – Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey – the high court held a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion and government cannot create an undue burden on a woman’s choice to have an abortion.
While Kavanaugh’s answer appeared to reassure Collins, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sounded much more skeptical after he met Monday evening with Kavanaugh in his Senate office.
“I’m already very troubled by the Supreme Court’s recent decisions stripping rights from Ohioans, and I have serious concerns about some of Judge Kavanaugh’s rulings and positions on health care for Ohioans with pre-existing conditions, and the rights of Ohio workers, women, and consumers,” Brown said in a statement after the meeting.
“I am continuing to listen to Ohioans and review Judge Kavanaugh’s record as I make my final decision,” Brown said.
Portman said he did not hear what Collins said after her meeting with Kavanaugh, but he said Kavanaugh has said in the past judges “ought to give a lot of weight to” what is known as stare decisis – where the high court does not recklessly overturn earlier court rulings.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.