CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Attorney General and Republican Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey said he expects his Democratic opponent Sen. Joe Manchin to vote for confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“At the end of the day, this is about his political survival,” Morrisey said Tuesday outside of the state Capitol. “I think he believes he must support Brett Kavanaugh. Otherwise, he will be assuredly going down in defeat in November.”
President Donald Trump announced Monday the nomination of Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and has previous experience working for Ken Starr and President George W. Bush’s administration.
Morrisey said Kavanaugh is more than qualified for the position.
“He’s been a firm defender of the Constitution, and no one can argue that the weight of his legal production alone helps ensure that he’s one of the top possible picks for the Supreme Court,” he said.
Manchin said after Monday’s announcement he will evaluate Kavanaugh’s record, judicial opinions and view of former President Barack Obama’s health care law. He added around 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions could be at risk of losing their health insurance if something happens to the law.
“As I have always said, I believe the Senate should hold committee hearings,” he said. “Senators should meet with him, we should debate his qualifications on the Senate floor and cast whatever vote we believe he deserves.”
Manchin was one of three Democrats last year to vote in favor of confirming Neil Gorsuch to the high court.
West Virginia and 19 other states are suing the federal government, claiming the federal health care law is unconstitutional following last year’s repeal of the individual mandate as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Morrisey said although he is against the federal health care law, there should be protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“There is no debate with respect with providing help to those with pre-existing conditions or catastrophic expenses,” Morrisey said Tuesday. “What I would say is Joe Manchin is trying to use this issue, make it up because he knows he can’t defend the high premium costs of Obamacare, and he has been flip-flopping on that issue, as well.”
Morrisey also said he supports overturning Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court decision allowing a woman’s right to abortion — adding the Supreme Court put itself in the role of creating policy.
“I also think when you have someone nominated to the Supreme Court, you have to ask them questions about their judicial philosophy,” he said. “You don’t know the exact nature of the case or the question that is going to come before them.”
The West Virginia Democratic Party set up a table near Morrisey’s press conference. Party representatives spoke to reporters after Morrisey’s remarks, saying his wife lobbies for Planned Parenthood which conflicts with Morrisey’s anti-abortion message.
“Patrick Morrisey is trying to have his cake and eat it, too,” said Curt Zickafoose, the party’s executive director. “He talks about how he is so pro-life, but yet he’s cashing the checks at night.”
“They have a stake in that company,” Zickafoose said. “He is spending the money that Planned Parenthood is giving them, so I definitely think it’s fair.”
Morrisey said his family has no connections to Planned Parenthood.
“I think it’s a wrong question to actually be bringing someone’s family member into this campaign,” he said.
Morrisey said a possible Manchin vote for Kavanaugh will not hurt his own campaign’s efforts to sell him as the conservative option.
“Joe Manchin knows that while he will ultimately vote for Kavanaugh, he is going to be in a very difficult position with (Senate Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer and his liberal donors. He’s going to want to appease them on issues related to abortion, on gun control, on other matters,” Morrisey said. “We’re not going to let that happen.”
On Capitol Hill, Vice President Mike Pence and Kavanaugh spent Tuesday talking to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
Pence said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline” said he does appreciate Manchin’s openness to Kavanaugh, but the best choice is to support the president’s nominee.
“We hope and trust that the Senate will give a strong vote confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the newest justice to the Supreme Court,” the vice president said.
Pence added he is grateful for Morrisey’s support.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said on “Talkline” Trump made an excellent pick.
“I will say I’m definitely leaning toward supporting him,” she said. “I want to meet him first and have a little deeper discussion.”
Capito attended Monday’s announcement ceremony at the White House. Manchin declined an invitation to attend the announcement.