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McCaskill under pressure from both sides of the aisle as she considers Supreme Court vote

Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley and Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill
Durrie Bouscaren & Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill says she has a growing list of questions as she preps for her meeting next week with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

And most of them won’t deal with his position on abortion rights, a top concern of progressive groups.

“I’m sure it will come up, but he won’t answer it,’’ McCaskill predicted.

Instead, she plans to probe for his overall views on health care, and access to it, as well as workers’ rights and the growth of campaign contributions from unidentified donors.

“‘David and Goliath’ issues,’’ the Missouri Democrat said in an interview. “We have such power in major corporations. What are the chances of a little guy taking on corporations?”

Meanwhile, national conservative groups have come to Missouri in an attempt to bolster support for Kavanaugh and put pressure on McCaskill. The U.S. Senate will begin deliberations in a few weeks over Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Penny Nance, chief executive of Concerned Women for America, told backers at a meeting Monday in Ellisville that about 20 percent of the voters in the 2016 presidential election “came out to vote based on this issue’’ of who sits on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The speakers included local conservative activist Zina Hackworth, who contends that banning abortion and protecting gun rights are among the matters at stake with the Senate’s vote.

“We’re hanging by a thread. And we need one more justice,” Hackworth said. She called on allies to flood McCaskill’s office with calls in favor of Kavanaugh.

“Claire McCaskill is ‘playing the game’ right now,’’ Hackworth added.

Supporters with Concerned Women of America are traveling the state in a bus adorned with pro-Kavanaugh statements and a huge picture of him. Their stops include a visit to the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia.

‘Progressives’ push back

McCaskill also is hearing from progressive groups like NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, which backs reproductive rights.

Executive director Alison Dreith said a delegation of high school students met with the senator recently to emphasize their concerns about Kavanaugh’s views on abortion, guns and LGBT rights.

The Concerned Women for America organization is touring Missouri to promote Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. August 2018
Credit Jo Mannies/St. Louis Public Radio
The Concerned Women for America organization is touring Missouri to promote Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

A number of progressive supporters, including NARAL, plan to participate in rallies and marches in St. Louis and around the country on Aug. 26, which is set to be a “National Day of Action’’ against Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Dreith said she’s concerned that McCaskill is taking too long to stake out her position. “I think this is becoming more political, the longer she waits,” Dreith added.

Hawley highlights his support for Kavanaugh

McCaskill’s Republican rival – Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley – has been promoting his support for Kavanaugh for weeks. Spokeswoman Kelli Ford said he supports the Concerned Women for America bus tour and any other efforts to help Kavanaugh win confirmation.

Hawley accuses McCaskill of complying too much with the wishes of Democratic Senate leaders, many of whom have already signaled their opposition.

“She ought to be voting for him,’’ Hawley said. “She ought to be challenging her party to vote for him and give him a fair hearing, and stop this delay, delay, delay.”

McCaskill said she expects to get heat regardless of which way she votes on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“In a way, it frees me up to look at Judge Kavanaugh and his record and to ask the questions I want to ask and decide what is right,” McCaskill said.

“Missourians will be asking me to explain it. Why I’m voting the way I’m voting,” she added. “But I’m confident that they are more interested in how he stands on certain issues, than some idea that he’s got to be confirmed just because he was nominated.”

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.