WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh met with key senators Tuesday, including moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins, an abortion-rights supporter who said she pressed Kavanaugh on the issue.
The Maine senator asked Kavanaugh whether he considers the case of Roe vs. Wade to be "settled law" – meaning that it is a legal precedent that should be respected. The Supreme Court ruled in the landmark 1973 case that a woman's right to have an abortion is protected under the U.S. Constitution.
"He (Kavanaugh) said that he agreed with what (Chief) Justice (John) Roberts said at his nomination hearing, in which he said that it was settled law," Collins told reporters after meeting with Kavanaugh for about two hours in her Senate office on Capitol Hill.
Kavanaugh also met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who believes Kavanaugh's confirmation would threaten abortion rights.
After the meeting, Schumer told reporters that Kavanaugh would not give him any reassurance that the court's decision in Roe should be left alone.
"It's not good enough for this judge to say he'll follow existing law, because that changes all the time," Schumer said.
Kavanaugh also met with four other Democrats: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who is in a tough fight for re-election in her swing state; Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Kamala Harris of California.
Collins said she will not make up her mind about how she will vote on Kavanaugh's nomination until after he testifies at confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee next month. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, recently announced that those hearings will begin on Sept. 4.
"You never know what questions are going to come up," Collins said, adding that she has never made a decision on a Supreme Court nominee until after the hearings.
Collins said she also questioned Kavanaugh about gun control issues, presidential power, and his judicial philosophy.
"Judge Kavanaugh and I had an excellent session," Collins said. "It was very productive. It was very informative."
Schumer said he was concerned that Kavanaugh does not believe in strong checks on the executive power of the presidency. Specifically, Kavanaugh would not say whether he believes that a president can be subpoenaed to force him to testify or turn over documents in a criminal case, even when it affects national security.
The question is more than academic because President Donald Trump could face a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"I asked him (Kavanaugh) whether he believed a a siting president must comply with a subpoena," Schumer said. "He would not say."