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Kaine: ‘Troubled’ by ideology behind Supreme Court pick / July 09, 2018
Sen. Tim Kaine, appearing in South Boston on Saturday, said he is keeping an open mind about the choice of a Supreme Court nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy — a pick that President Trump has promised to reveal sometime today.

As a member of the Senate, Kaine holds a vote on whether to approve the next justice, who is all but certain to lock down a conservative majority on the court for years to come. A conservative replacement for Kennedy could reverse 5-4 majority rulings that Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, has backed on issues such as legalized abortion, gay rights, affirmative action and gun control.

While Kaine said he is not ready to take a position on Trump’s possible choices before the announcement is made, he said he will request a “one-to-one” meeting with the eventual nominee to discuss his or her stances in four areas: the legality of the Affordable Care Act and its ban on discrimination against patients with pre-existing health conditions; a women’s right to reproductive freedom; equal rights under the Constitution; and “the significant chance” that the next Supreme Court may have to rule on whether President Trump must cooperate with the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Kaine, a supporter of abortion rights, said he was “troubled by the notion that an ideological group is the vetter” for Supreme Court nominees — a reference to Trump’s pledge to select the next justice from a list of 25 candidates compiled by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

Trump has promised to name members to the Supreme Court who will overrule Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established the constitutional right to an abortion, and many of the candidates on the Federalist Society list are avowedly pro-life.

Kennedy has supported Roe and rejected attempts to sharply narrow its scope.

The future of the Supreme Court also was on the mind of Kaine’s Democratic ticket mate, Leslie Cockburn, in their appearance together in South Boston on Saturday.

Cockburn, candidate for Congress in the 5th Congressional District, would not get to vote on the court nominee even if she were currently a member of the House of Representatives. Supreme Court nominees are approved by the U.S. Senate, the upper chamber of which Kaine is a member.

However, Cockburn said is watching the nomination closely. If a future Supreme Court strikes down Roe, “that doesn’t make abortion disappear,” said Cockburn. “It brings back the coat hanger.”

It was a reference to back-alley abortions that existed before women had the legal right to terminate pregnancies. Cockburn said the best way to reduce abortions is to make contraception widely available and bolster educational programs on parenting and sexual reproduction.

She said the idea that women could lose their rights with repeal of Roe made her profoundly uncomfortable: “The government has no business in my body, I feel that very strongly, for myself, my daughters, my granddaughters, all women.

“It would be tragic to bring back the old days” before Roe, said Cockburn.

If Trump taps a nominee who is likely to undo Roe and send the issue of abortion back to the states, which had their own laws before the 1973 ruling, Cockburn said abortion rights supporters would have no choice but to rally against the nominee and try to create a groundswell to persuade senators to vote no. The Senate is divided 51-49 with a Republican majority, but two GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — are pro-choice, and a third, John McCain of Arizona, is battling brain cancer and has been absent from recent floor votes.

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