Vice President Mike Pence (L) talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the East Room before U.S. President Donald Trump introduces Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee to the United States Supreme Court at the White House July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. Pending confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Kavanaugh would succeed Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, who is retiring after 30 years of service on the high court.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Vice President Pence turns up the heat on Missouri’s Sen. McCaskill as Supreme Court battle kicks off

In a Kansas City speech, the vice president slammed the senator for joining other ‘obstructionist’ Democrats in voting last year against Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday put pressure on Sen. Claire McCaskill to support President Donald Trump's latest pick for the Supreme Court, using a speech in McCaskill's home state of Missouri to hammer the vulnerable Democrat for her opposition to Trump's first nominee last year. 

"Today, we call on Senator Claire McCaskill, put politics aside, give our nominee a fair hearing and vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the newest justice of the Supreme Court of the United States," Pence said in Kansas City, Missouri. 

The remarks by Pence come two days after Trump unveiled Kavanaugh as his choice to succeed retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. 

McCaskill, who is in the midst of a tough reelection battle and last year voted against the confirmation of Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, has so far sounded a cautious note on Kavanaugh, saying that she plans to thoroughly examine his record before coming to a decision. 

"When the president's first nominee to the Supreme Court came before the Senate last year, Claire McCaskill joined Chuck Schumer and voted 'no' on Neil Gorsuch," Pence said, referring to the Senate minority leader, who along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is a frequent foil for Republicans on the campaign trail. 

Ahead of Trump's announcement Monday night, several Democrats came out in opposition to any nominee picked from the president's previously-announced list of 25 judges. McCaskill was not among them, but that did not stop Pence from seizing on their opposition as an example of "the kind of obstruction that the American people have had enough of from Washington, D.C." 

Pence cast the choice facing McCaskill as one between "whether she's going to stand with Chuck Schumer and her obstructionist party or whether she's going to stand with the people of Missouri and support the most qualified and most deserving nominee to the Supreme Court in the country." 

McCaskill's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Pence's remarks. 

The two-term Democrat is running for reelection in a state that Trump won by 19 percentage points in 2016. Her likely opponent in November, Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, last week called the Supreme Court "the defining issue of this campaign." 

Pence's remarks came as part of a Midwestern swing that will take him later Wednesday to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as he seeks to shore up support for Republican House candidates while also tamping down on concerns over Trump's trade policies. 

In a speech that covered a broad range of issues, Pence notably devoted several minutes to the judicial branch, a topic that energized Republican voters in 2016 and was instrumental in Trump's victory. Pence on Wednesday touted Trump's success in securing the confirmation of more circuit court judges than any other president in his first 12 months, hailing those judges as "all conservative men and women." 

Later, however, Pence was careful to steer clear of any overt description of Kavanaugh's political leanings, describing the judge as "a principled jurist who will interpret the Constitution as written and not legislate from the bench."