WASHINGTON — Democratic senators from Pennsylvania and New Jersey immediately blasted President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, on Monday night, warning that the judge could tilt the court far to the right and roll back access to abortion and civil rights laws.
Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania didn't even wait for the formal selection. He declared his opposition hours before Trump 9 p.m. announcement.
"I will oppose the nomination the president makes tonight because it represents a corrupt bargain with the far right, big corporations, and Washington special interests," Casey said in a statement Monday afternoon.
While Republicans quickly hailed Kavanaugh as a highly qualified judge who has shown his ability on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Democrats railed against the influence of conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, which have helped recommend to Trump a slate of potential judicial picks.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) said anyone on the list would rule in ways that would damage women's right to abortion, recent legal gains for same-sex couples, and voting rights laws that aid minorities.
"With Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, it's clear that President Trump stuck to the litmus test he laid out when he pledged to only choose Supreme Court nominees who believe that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and abortion be made illegal in this country," Menendez said in a statement issued shortly after Trump's announcement.
Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Trump should not be allowed to fill a Supreme Court seat while his administration is subject to an investigation that could wind up before the court.
"His nomination should be a non-starter for every member of the Senate concerned about the integrity of the special counsel's investigation and worried about the court undermining the rights of women to make their own medical decisions; civil rights; the rights of Americans to quality, affordable health care; voting rights; the rights of workers to organize for better wages and working conditions; and more," Booker said in a statement.
Sen. Pat Toomey, the Philadelphia region's lone Republican senator, said he was "pleased" by the nomination.
"Based on his reputation and resumé, Judge Kavanaugh appears to have the intellect and experience necessary to serve on our nation's highest court," said a statement from Toomey, of Pennsylvania.
Democrats' thin hopes of stalling the Trump nominee hinge on unified opposition, though even if they all hold firm they still face steep odds because Republicans control the Senate with a slim majority.
Casey's Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, said the incumbent has been "blinded by partisanship."
"How can you condemn a nominee before she or he has been named, and then declare your opposition to that person before you have even met with them?" Barletta asked in a statement.
Later, Barletta praised Kavanaugh, saying he "is well qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and the Senate should move to confirm him without delay. I fully support the president's choice."
Democrats and Republicans have predicted that the fight over the vacant Supreme Court seat will be ferocious — and that the results could leave perhaps the longest-lasting imprint of Trump's presidency.
"This is a generational choice," Menendez, who is also up for reelection, said earlier in the day at an event in Camden. "If this person gets confirmed, that will change the court, 5-4 for a generation, and that's a long time of bad decisions. That's what's at stake."
Casey's unequivocal rejection in the midst of his reelection campaign this year underscored how he has embraced a role as an outspoken Trump critic, despite the president's having carried Pennsylvania in 2016. Several other Democrats running in states that Trump has won have at least expressed openness to considering the president's nominee.
Democrats and their liberal base remain furious over the way Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee in 2016, leaving an opening that Trump filled with the conservative Neil Gorsuch. Their anger has been compounded by the possibility that Trump will now build on that move by replacing a swing vote, the retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, with a reliable conservative, potentially locking in a conservative majority for years to come.
Liberals are demanding opposition and promising an all-out fight to try to block Trump's pick until after November's elections, when the Senate is at stake.
Bob Hugin, Menendez's Republican challenger in deep blue New Jersey, sounded a somewhat cautious note.
"Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a highly qualified individual, and I look forward to the Senate's comprehensive review of his record and qualifications," Hugin said in a statement. "As with any important decision, especially one involving a nominee to the Supreme Court, I would reserve judgment until I had all the relevant facts and done my own research."