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Politics & Government

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt Outlines Why He Supports Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We turn now to Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. He's not on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but he's spoken in favor of Brett Kavanaugh on the Senate floor. Senator, welcome back to the program.

ROY BLUNT: Hi, Audie. Good to be with you.

CORNISH: So what's your response to this persistent criticism from Democrats this week who said, look; we're getting thousands of pages of documents dumped the night before a hearing; it's unfair, and it prevents real scrutiny of - happening of the nominee?

BLUNT: Well, I think it's just a - it's arguing about something when you don't have anything else to argue about. The Democrats had more paper, more documents on Judge Kavanaugh than they - than anybody's had on the last five Supreme Court nominees combined.

CORNISH: But those night-of dumpings - do you think that that was fair?

BLUNT: Well, they had - you know, they had a half a million dollars to hire (laughter) staff to look at this. They had 90 percent of everything. They got 480,000 documents. So I don't think it's fair, as documents are being cleared - they got them as quickly as they were cleared. The committee got everything it asked for. Now, there's an argument about whether the chairman of the committee could have asked for more things. But they got five times as much as they've ever gotten for anybody else.

And frankly, there's nothing in those documents. The whole committee confidential idea is documents that are there, that if you want to clear them, you make a argument as to why they should be cleared. That clearly happened easily when some of these documents were asked to be cleared by Senator Klobuchar and others. This is not an unusual thing for senators to do. We go to the parliamentarian all the time to say, what if we did this instead of that? How much of this can we use? It's not an unusual thing.

I just think, Audie, they didn't have anything really to argue about. Justice Kavanaugh I think will be Justice Kavanaugh - Judge Kavanaugh. Three hundred opinions, 13 of them almost in total accepted by the Supreme Court - there's a real record there, more than you normally have. And frankly, I think he came through the week in a way that's going to guarantee that he has a bipartisan vote and I think will be on the court before the court starts this year's business the first Monday in October.

CORNISH: I want to get your reaction to President Trump's calls for the Justice Department to investigate the identity of the anonymous senior official who wrote the New York Times op-ed. The president says it's a matter of national security.

BLUNT: Well, I don't know that I see it as a matter of national security. But if you're - if you've got what the New York Times says is a highly placed person in your administration and they're functioning in an anonymous way, the president should be concerned about that. I don't know that it's a Justice Department issue as much as it's a White House issue.

CORNISH: The allegations in the op-ed as well as the allegations in the new book by Bob Woodward describe a White House where some believe they need to act to moderate the president's interest, to go against what they consider his worst impulses. What is your response to that?

BLUNT: You know, I think interestingly we've been in a situation here for some time now in the Senate to where with all of this swirling around every week, it's supposedly the last thing that will end the Trump presidency - that we just continue to get our work done.

And frankly, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about how the White House should be responding to questions like those two. And I really think that's where that response needs to come from, not from members of the Senate who are trying to fund the government and confirm a Supreme Court justice and the other important work that we clearly are doing at a level that the Senate hasn't done for a while.

CORNISH: I ask because Republican Congressman Mark Meadows says he does want to investigate. Is that what Congress should be doing?

BLUNT: Well, the Congress has oversight opportunities. And if that's what Mark Meadows wants to do and he's got a committee that allows him to do that, they can pretty much do what they want to do. There's an oversight responsibility here. But, you know, we're about to fund the government. We took the Labor-HHS bill - I'm the chairman of that committee - hasn't been on the Senate floor in 11 years, hasn't been approved before the beginning of the fiscal year in 22 years. We're about to get that done. That's really my focus for next week. And Congressman Meadows can focus on whatever he thinks he needs to focus on.

CORNISH: It sounds like you are not concerned about a potential for a government shutdown.

BLUNT: Well, I don't want a government shutdown. And one way to achieve that is to take the 90 percent of the spending that we've already - the House and Senate are in conference on and get that done before the 30th of September and take that last 10 percent and see how we need to manage it to move on. I think we're not going to have a government shutdown. I think that would be a mistake for everybody involved.

CORNISH: Senator...

BLUNT: Schumer's shutdown didn't work, and I think one this year wouldn't work either.

CORNISH: That's Republican senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.