WASHINGTON â€“ Judge Brett Kavanaugh continued his courtship with the Senate Wednesday, visiting with two Democrats whose votes could be key to his confirmation as the next Supreme Court justice: Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Both are red-state Democrats who are up for re-election in the fall and whose votes are being closely watched. They, along with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WVa., were the only Democrats last year to vote in favor of another conservative Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch.
Donnelly said he wonâ€™t make a decision on Kavanaugh, a U.S. appeals court judge, until after his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That is scheduled to begin Sept. 4.
â€œThis was an important opportunity to sit down and talk in-depth with Judge Kavanaugh about his record, experience working in the Bush Administration and serving on the federal bench, and views on the role of the Supreme Court as well as on a range of issues including precedent, health care, and judicial independence,â€ Donnelly said in a statement.
Heitkamp also said before her meeting that she would need to see his confirmation hearing â€œas part of a thorough and exhaustive review.â€
â€œMany members of Congress and outside groups have already expressed their opinions on how I should vote before Iâ€™ve had the chance to do my job of fully considering this nominee,â€ she said in a statement. â€œAs Iâ€™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.â€
Red-state Democrats are caught in a challenging place, between base supporters who are urging opposition and Republican opponents portraying them asÂ Washington obstructionists.Â
Most Democrats had refused to meet with President Trumpâ€™s nominee unless Republicans agreed to seek records from Kavanaughâ€™s three years as staff secretary for former President George W. Bush. But earlier this month, Democrats said they would demand those documents directly from Kavanaugh.
Republicans, led by Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, say Democrats are trying to stall Kavanaughâ€™s confirmation.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is in a tough race for re-election, was the first Democrat to meet with Kavanaugh on July 30. Others have now scheduled meetings.
By the end of the day, Kavanaugh will have met with more than 50 senators, according to Kerri Kupec, White House spokesperson for the Kavanaugh confirmation team.
â€œJudgeÂ Kavanaugh is engaged in extensive preparation for his upcoming hearing,” she said. “He continues to meet with senators and is spending many hours preparing for potential committee member questions and participating in mock hearings.â€
Contributing: Erin Kelly