Sullivan meets Supreme Court nominee and says he’ll vote to confirm him

WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said Thursday that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has his full support, after they met in Sullivan's office.

Sullivan said he thought it was apt to evaluate Kavanaugh for the position by standards used by the American Bar Association.

"They look at integrity, they look at professional competence, and they look at judicial temperament. … And I can tell you on all three of those areas, which is what I think should be the way in which senators are viewing him, he scores very, very, very high," Sullivan said.

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The hourlong meeting was an early stop on Kavanaugh's rounds in the Senate, which began this week soon after President Donald Trump announced his nomination Monday night. Sullivan and Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, worked together in the George W. Bush administration, and the senator said he has followed Kavanaugh's career since.

At their meeting, they discussed federal regulatory authority, the Second Amendment, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and other Alaska-specific federal laws, Sullivan said.

Sullivan's announcement that he is a yes vote on Kavanaugh comes as national abortion-rights supporters and other anti-Kavanaugh activists aim to sway the vote of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Murkowski, a Republican, said this week that she doesn't expect to meet with the judge for several weeks while she reviews his judicial record.


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Sullivan said Kavanaugh has "a healthy skepticism with regard to the powers of federal agencies when they don't have statutory authority to take action. … It's a huge issue in Alaska, similar to the Second Amendment. …

"I actually read his dissent in the Heller case — that's the Second Amendment case, a very important case. … We had a long discussion about that today," Sullivan said.

Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion in the 2011 case Heller v. District of Columbia, in which his two colleagues upheld a D.C. law banning most semi-automatic rifles.

"And then we talked about Alaska-specific laws," Sullivan said, citing ANILCA. "Now, of course you don't expect the D.C. circuit judge to know a lot about those laws; much of that goes through the Ninth Circuit. But I just wanted to highlight that to him," Sullivan said.

In Alaska, "federal agencies try to push the limits," he said, "and that's not appropriate in my view, so I gave him a heads-up on that."

If confirmed, Kavanaugh will face a case about the right of a moose hunter to use his hovercraft on an Interior Alaska waterway. The case raises issues of federal regulatory control and Alaska-specific statutes.

But Sullivan said he did not discuss any specific cases, nor did he think that was appropriate.

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The pair did not discuss abortion, Sullivan said. "And my view is a litmus test on any case is not the appropriate line of questioning."

The senator did not offer specifics but said they did discuss Kavanaugh's views on legal precedent.

Erica Martinson

Erica Martinson is a former reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C.