- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2018

The pending Supreme Court vacancy and its implications for abortion law has become a battleground already in Pennsylvania’s Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and his Republican challenger, Rep. Lou Barletta.

With President Trump poised to nominate a replacement July 9 for retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Mr. Barletta is campaigning forcefully on his pro-life credentials and reminding voters that Mr. Casey isn’t in the same mold as his late father, the pro-life Democratic Gov. Robert Casey.

“The vacancy on the Supreme Court is another example of why the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania is vital to the future of our country,” Mr. Barletta said in a statement. “One vote in the Senate can shape the balance of the Supreme Court and determine the direction of our country for a generation.”

But it’s Mr. Casey, not Mr. Barletta, who will have a vote sometime this fall to reject or confirm the president’s appointee. The two-term incumbent pointed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s blocking of Obama nominee Merrick Garland in the 2016 election year, and said the Senate should wait until January, after the midterm elections, to consider Mr. Trump’s eventual nominee.

“The Trump administration has nominated many far-right judges who put the interests of big corporations ahead of justice and fairness for all Americans,” Mr. Casey said. “If an individual from the list provided to candidate Donald Trump by far-right organizations, like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, is nominated, then I am highly unlikely to support that nominee. Justices who sit on the most important court in the world should not be selected by corporate interests and extreme-right organizations.”

Mr. Barletta said Mr. Casey’s “obstruction of court appointments and turn to the radical left could cause lasting damage to the future of Pennsylvania.”

“As senator, I will support nominees to the United States federal Courts who will protect and defend the Constitution,” said the Republican challenger.

National Right to Life endorsed Mr. Barletta, saying in a statement that “All Pennsylvania voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to send you to the U.S. Senate, so that you can continue to work to advance vital pro-life public policies.”

In the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Mr. Casey is leading Mr. Barletta by 16 percentage points, 46.3 percent to 30.3 percent.

Observers on both sides of the abortion issue believe the next Supreme Court nominee, undoubtedly a conservative, could shift the high court enough to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion a constitutional right nationwide.

Mr. Barletta noted that Mr. Casey “was a fighter for life when he ran for his first term against [Republican Sen.] Rick Santorum.”

“Many people remember his father, who was a fighter for life,” Mr. Barletta told WHYY of Philadelphia. “There’s a misperception that he’s still a moderate pro-life Democrat his record mirrors [Massachusetts Democratic Sen.] Elizabeth Warren’s.”

Casey campaign spokesman Max Steele told the station that although Mr. Casey “is opposed to Roe, he’s focused on finding areas of common ground to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and making sure pregnant women and new mothers have the resources they need.”

“By focusing on areas of agreement between people on both sides of this debate, he’s been able to pass legislation like the Pregnancy Assistance Fund and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” Mr. Steele said.

National Right to Life and the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation said Mr. Casey had a 100 percent voting record with the pro-choice group NARAL on its most recent scorecard, and a voting record of zero with National Right to Life in 2016.

The groups also pointed to Mr. Casey’s support for Planned Parenthood, with National Right to Life saying he “supports giving hundreds of millions of dollars of government funds to the nation’s largest abortion provider.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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