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Missouri ‘Deserves Better’ Than McCaskill, Pence Says in Kansas City

VP applies pressure on Democratic senator over coming high court vote

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is the target of a new ad on the tax overhaul. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is the target of a new ad on the tax overhaul. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Vice President Mike Pence told an audience in Missouri the state “deserves better” than Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, whom he pressured to vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“The Democratic Party has gone farther to the left than ever before. And you only need to look at Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill to see that,” he said during remarks in Kansas City. “Every single Democrat in Congress voted against President Trump’s tax cuts. When it came time to cut your taxes, Sen. Claire McCaskill voted no.”

He went on to blast her “no” votes on other Trump-GOP agenda items, including bills that would have repealed the 2010 health care law and preventing Planned Parenthood and so-called “sanctuary cities” from receiving federal monies.

“Time and again, Claire McCaskill has voted ‘no’ on the policies that Missouri supports and Missouri needs,” the VP said. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think Missouri deserves better.”

McCaskill’s campaign responded in kind.

Hawley and Pence should explain the president’s trade war and why his tax bill benefitted pharmaceutical drug companies while not a single prescription drug price has fallen, campaign press secretary Eric Mee said in an email.

“Claire has voted for two-thirds of President Trump’s judicial nominees and — just like with those nominees — she will examine Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications as she considers his nomination,” Mee said.

[Trump Opens NATO Summit by Pitching a Fit]

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales puts her race with GOP state Attorney General Josh Hawley in the Toss-Up column. An average of five polls calculated by RealClearPolitics gives McCaskill a narrow 1 percentage point lead.

The VP also used President Donald Trump’s nomination of D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s for the U.S. Supreme Court to pressure McCaskill into voting to confirm him.

He attempted to tie the incumbent to Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who received boos from the friendly audience when Pence mentioned his name. On Trump’s first high court nominee, now-Justice Neil Gorsuch, “Claire McCaskill joined Chuck Schumer and voted ‘no,’” Pence said.

McCaskill must decide, he said, “whether she is going to stand with Chuck Schumer or stand with” Kavanaugh, whom he described as the “most qualified” nominee in high court’s 229-year history.

The vice president called on McCaskill to “put politics aside and vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh,” adding: “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think Missouri deserves better.”

For his part, Hawley was quick to use the nomination for his own ends, using the issue in the first television ad of his Senate campaign. That is a sign the upcoming confirmation debate will be central to the Republican’s bid to unseat his Democratic foe.

Hawley’s ad hit the airwaves Monday, the same day Trump announced his pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court’s most consistent swing vote.

Watch: Doing the SCOTUS Math: Seven Senators, Three Factions, One Crucial Vote

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“The eyes of the nation are on Missouri. We decide which values control the Senate and the Supreme Court,” Hawley says directly to the camera in the 30-second ad, as he walks by large columns reminiscent of the high court. “Claire McCaskill wants liberals in charge. That’s how she votes. That’s not Missouri’s way, and it won’t be my way.”

Pence on Wednesday went even further than other White House officials who say Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh should get the support of some Senate Democrats.

He called the D.C. Circuit judge a “principled jurist who will interpret the Constitution as written, and not legislate from the bench,” which should earn the nominee the support of “every member of the United States Senate.”

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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