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Sen. Johnson: Abortion not ‘litmus test’ for nominee

By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said Monday he has no litmus test on abortion for President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court and he hopes the Senate moves quickly to confirm the pick before the November election.

While Johnson praised the selection of Brett Kavanaugh for the nation’s highest court, Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin was more circumspect, voicing concerns that longstanding legal precedents protecting the right to an abortion could be overturned.

Baldwin, who opposed Trump’s last nominee to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, said the stakes are “very high for the American people.”

“People need an independent justice who will not overturn the law of the land on women’s health, health care for people with pre-existing conditions, and the constitutional rights and freedoms of all Americans,” Baldwin said in a statement.

Johnson said he appreciated that Baldwin hadn’t immediately opposed Kavanaugh like other Democrats.

Baldwin, an abortion-rights advocate, is up for re-election in November. The two Republicans running in a primary to challenge her, state Sen. Leah Vukmir and the management consultant Kevin Nicholson, both backed Kavanaugh.

Johnson said that he would like to see the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion overturned, but he’s not going to use Kavanaugh’s position on that as a litmus test for confirmation.

“My only litmus test is does somebody conduct themselves as a judge, applying the law, not altering it,” Johnson said.

Trump announced Monday that Kavanaugh, a staunch conservative who serves on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, was his choice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. The pick sets up a ferocious confirmation battle in the Senate with Democrats who are trying to stop the nation’s highest court from shifting more to the right.

Johnson said he hoped the Senate would move “expeditiously” to confirm Kavanaugh before the midterm election because Senate control could switch from Republicans to Democrats.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican members of Congress from Wisconsin also praised the choice, whereas Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore called Kavanaugh a “radical” who “should not be confirmed under any circumstances.”

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