Both sides in the increasingly acrimonious dispute took to the Sunday political talk shows at the start of what promises to be an epic tussle over the ninth seat on the nation's highest court.
The Republican leader in the Senate is trying to steer Donald Trump away from picking a Supreme Court justice open to overturning abortion rights, fearing that the most controversial choice could provoke a bitter confirmation battle. Trump has since downplayed those remarks, indicating in a recent interview with Fox News that his advisors have discouraged him from asking potential nominees outright if they would vote to overturn the Roe precedent. On Sunday there was no indication that he had yet made his decision, as speculation continued to swirl around the appointment.
Claire McCaskill (D) is already one of the most vulnerable lawmakers up for re-election in November - President Trump won her state by 19 points in 2016 - and the looming Supreme Court vote is playing right into her Republican opponent's hand, Politico reports. The President interviewed seven candidates from his master-list of 25 judges, the White House said. The first two are the top contenders for the position, said NPR. "Nobody really knows", he said.
"Am I optimistic that [Trump is] going to nominate somebody that I would feel comfortable about?" said McCaskill.
The South Carolina senator said Democrats from red states will have a hard time opposing any of those judges. "It's important to have people who are extremely well known and have distinguished records". While Barrett is problematic on the abortion issue, Kavanaugh is unpopular among some Republican senators because of his track record as staff secretary under President George W Bush.
For Trump, this was his second consecutive weekend in New Jersey.
The source told Reuters that Amy Coney Barrett of IN, a Trump-appointed judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was still IN contention but that the Republican president had been asking more questions about the other two, who have more extensive judicial records. In addition to wanting to preserve Roe v. Wade, he said, the public wants "protections for millions of Americans" on health care.
Blumenthal accused Trump of turning himself into a "puppet of outside groups" by choosing his nominee from "a group of rightwing fringe ideologues that have prepared this list". Senate rules now requires only a majority of 51 votes to advance a Supreme Court nomination.