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Sen. Mazie Hirono Weighs In On Upcoming Confirmation Hearing For Brett Kavanaugh


The newest Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, spent today carrying out a well-established tradition...


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Leader, it's good to see you.

JON KYL: Leader...


KYL: ...Great to see you.


CHANG: ...Meeting and talking to senators on Capitol Hill. This morning, Vice President Mike Pence and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with Kavanaugh.


PENCE: We look forward to working very closely with you, Leader, to advance the Senate's proper role in considering Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the president's nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.


The Senate Judiciary Committee and then the full Senate will decide whether Kavanaugh joins the eight other Supreme Court justices in their black robes when a new term begins this October. Elsewhere on the program, we hear from a White House spokesman about Kavanaugh.

We're joined now by one of the Judiciary Committee members who will question the nominee at his confirmation hearing, Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

MAZIE HIRONO: Thank you, Ari. Aloha.

SHAPIRO: You wrote on Twitter that Kavanaugh has not earned the benefit of the doubt and that he has to demonstrate his ability to exercise unbiased and independent judgment. Are you open to voting for him?

HIRONO: Maybe if he turns miraculously into a Sotomayor, but it is a high burden for him. And the reason that I said that he does not get the benefit of the doubt is because we know that the president said that he wants someone on the court who will overturn Roe v. Wade and who will also repeal or support repealing the Affordable Care Act, two really important issues for us as well as so many other things on which he's much more inclined to support corporate interests over individual rights.

But particularly for someone like me who is experiencing being one of the millions and millions of people now who have pre-existing conditions, meaning that, you know, people who are sick or who have a medical record - that's practically all of us - the - his nomination is a tremendous concern and whether or not he can truly be independent.

And of course the other thing, Ari, that we think is the reason the president picked him out of the others who have already been vetted by two very conservative organizations for his positions on the Affordable Care Act as well as on Roe v. Wade is because he wrote about the extent of executive powers, the presidential powers to be free of either criminal or, you know, prosecution.

SHAPIRO: Senator Hirono, I know you said half in jest that you might consider voting for him if he turned miraculously into a Sotomayor, but have we reached the point now where a Republican president will not get any Democratic votes for his nominee and vice versa? It was not that long ago that Supreme Court nominees were confirmed with an overwhelming majority of votes if they were deemed qualified regardless of their ideology.

HIRONO: That's right. That's how it used to be with a 60-vote requirement. So Mitch McConnell very quickly changed the requirement for confirming a Supreme Court justice to only the barest majority. And so it is not the case that we would be against any nominee by this Republican president, just not the nominees that have already been vetted by The Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation to, you know - especially in these two areas that they care about, the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade.

SHAPIRO: A few of your Democratic colleagues in red states who are up for re-election are in a tough spot. Are you going to encourage them to vote no?

HIRONO: I think that when we focus on the fact that - a Texas case that attacks the Affordable Care Act or the health care provision that supports insurance for people with pre-existing conditions - you know, even in those red states, everybody cares about what's going to happen to their health insurance, and therefore the - probably large numbers of people in those states - North Dakota, Indiana...

SHAPIRO: West Virginia, Indiana - do you think that would...

HIRONO: ...West Virginia - pre-existing conditions...

SHAPIRO: ...Hurt your colleagues' re-election chances if they do oppose this nominee?

HIRONO: I think that when their people find out that he is likely to vote to do away with the protections for those with pre-existing conditions - but I'm certainly not going to sit here and encourage them to vote in a particular way, you know? They need to respond to the concerns of their own constituents.

SHAPIRO: Your party is in the minority. Realistically, how much of an impact do you think Democrats can have on this process?

HIRONO: As I said, I think a whole - what people need to know is to get educated, especially in the health care area. We know that health care is a concern for everyone regardless of age, political orientation, ideology, et cetera.

SHAPIRO: So perhaps raise awareness even if it's not...

HIRONO: Oh, totally.

SHAPIRO: ...Possible to block the nomination altogether.

HIRONO: Well, if we raise the awareness to the dangers to everyone's health care - pre-existing conditions are really people who are sick or have a medical history. Diabetes - there are lots of diabetics in all these states and asthma. And of course people with cancer like me - we would pretty much all be priced out of getting any health insurance at all, and that should be a major concern...

SHAPIRO: Just...

HIRONO: ...To everyone all across our country with regard to this nominee.

SHAPIRO: Just briefly in conclusion, you've explained your concerns about this nominee. Is any part of you relieved that the president nominated somebody who has been a judge and is respected by many of his colleagues rather than someone far outside the legal establishment?

HIRONO: Judge Kavanaugh is not exactly in the mainstream. In fact he's not in the mainstream. He's not a moderate. There was a report that said he's only slightly to the left of Clarence Thomas, and that is not a moderate person at all.

SHAPIRO: All right.

HIRONO: So it's not true that he's in the mainstream.

SHAPIRO: Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat from Hawaii and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thanks for joining us.

HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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