- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said Wednesday she will vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, saying she couldn’t stomach his past writings on campaign finance law.

Ms. McCaskill’s announcement seemed designed to avoid having to grapple with the latest controversial allegations against the nominee from a woman who says he attempted to strip off her clothes during a high school party in the 1980s.

The senator called those “troubling,” but said her decision is based on the finer points of campaign law.

She cited an email the judge wrote in 2002 when he was a lawyer in the Bush White House and expressed doubts about Congress’s ability under the Constitution to limit donations to political campaigns. And she cited more recent rulings from the judge, in his post in the circuit court of appeals in Washington, where he wrote that interest groups have a First Amendment right to run ads offering their thoughts on political matters.

“It is his allegiance to the position that unlimited donations and dark anonymous money, from even foreign interests, should be allowed to swamp the voices of individuals that has been the determining factor in my decision to vote no on his nomination,” she said in a statement.

She is one of several red-state Democrats who had withheld announcing how they would vote on Judge Kavanaugh.

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She also voted against Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s first high court nominee last year. She did vote for both of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.

That dichotomy has drawn fire from Republicans who say she appears to be voting in lockstep with the anti-Trump “resistance.”

Ms. McCaskill’s statement Wednesday attempted to challenge that claim, noting she’s voted for “more than two-thirds” of Mr. Trump’s judicial nominees.

Her Republican opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, said her decision was “no surprise.”

“Claire McCaskill is now 0 for 6 on Supreme Court nominees since she started running for the Senate 12 long years ago,” he said. “She has sided with Chuck Schumer every single time – for liberals and against Missouri. Senator McCaskill has forgotten where she’s from and become just another Washington liberal.”

Missouri Rising Action, a conservative pressure group, said her decision to vote against Judge Kavanaugh was hypocritical, arguing she herself has attempted to “direct dark money outside groups on her behalf.”

With Ms. McCaskill in the “No” column, that leaves three Democrats whose votes will be closely watched.

Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana all voted for Justice Gorsuch and they, like Ms. McCaskill, are up for re-election this year in states that voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump in 2016.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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