WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she is a little annoyed with those pledging to vote "no" on President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court before they even knew who it would be.
She said she plans to do a lot more research about nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, she said in an interview Tuesday. "He's been on the bench since 2006. He's been in the administration before that. So there is a lot to go through," she said.
Murkowski, a moderate Republican who is pro-abortion rights, has been the target of public lobbying to vote against any Trump pick for the court that might sway the balance to the right, and potentially overturn the landmark 1973 abortion case Roe v. Wade.
The Senate has a 50-vote threshold to confirm a Supreme Court justice. Republicans hold a 51-vote majority, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is receiving treatment for brain cancer. Opponents of the president's pick are targeting Murkowski and other moderates, and trying to secure "no" votes from several red-state Democrats who have voted to confirm conservative judicial nominees in the past.
But Murkowski said her mind is far from made up; she doesn't expect Kavanaugh to speak overtly on Roe v. Wade; and she will consider a variety of factors in her vote.
Murkowski said she will consider the role that Kavanaugh would play in swinging the court to the right for decades to come. But she also said it is important to recognize the role played by a conservative Republican president. "And so the question is whether Kavanaugh, if he's confirmed, replaces him as that justice who's perhaps more in the middle. I don't know that he is. But that is something that I'm going to be looking at," she said.
"And I will say, I'm a little – I'm a little annoyed that some of my colleagues, even before the president laid down Judge Kavanaugh's name, had already determined that they were going to vote against whomever," Murkowski said.
Murkowski voted in favor of Kavanaugh in 2006, after he was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by President George W. Bush.
But the stakes are larger now — "lifetime (appointment) on the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land," she said. "And also you now have a much more substantive record to review in the intervening years. So just because I had an opportunity to weigh in on his nomination at the circuit court level, this is a different ballgame," Murkowski said.
And Murkowski said she is not certain that Kavanaugh is "committed to overturning Roe v. Wade." She said that she told Trump it would be inappropriate to ask nominees to forecast a specific vote in a "very direct conversation" about 10 days before the announcement. "He confirmed that he had not and would not," she said.
Murkowski said her job will be to "determine whether Judge Kavanaugh will do what I think most Americans expect him to do, which is to basically follow that law, interpret the law, not create new law, not be that activist judge."
Murkowski said she is no less interested in those who say that she should act as a rubber stamp on any Republican-nominated judge. "That is not the role of advise and consent," she said.