WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump's US Supreme Court nominee finally met with a Democrat on Monday, as Senator Joe Manchin bucked his party and welcomed Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill.
The appeals court judge offered smiles but no remarks to reporters as he entered Manchin's office and left two hours later — the longest of his meetings to date with senators who will decide whether he gets confirmed to the nine-justice bench.
Manchin, who could be pivotal in the confirmation vote, said the pair had a "productive meeting," but he did not hint at how he will vote.
"I won't make a final decision on the nomination until I complete a thorough and fair examination of his candidacy," the West Virginia Democrat said.
Republican leaders want Kavanaugh confirmed by early Oct when the high court sits for its next session.
But Democrats are demanding that Republicans release thousands of pages of documents from when Kavanaugh served as a senior official in George W. Bush's White House before he became a judge.
The dispute has become a focal point in the confirmation process, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accusing Republicans of "hiding" something in Kavanaugh's record.
Democrats have branded Kavanaugh, who would replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, as a deeply conservative jurist who would shift the court to the right jeopardizing critical rulings on the constitutionality of abortion rights and the legality of Barack Obama's health care reforms.
With Senator John McCain away from Washington battling cancer, Republicans hold a slim 50-49 majority. Democrats can sink Trump's nominee if they hold together and convince a single Republican to vote no.
Republican Senator Rand Paul had been publicly waffling over Kavanaugh but announced his support for the nominee, earning thanks from the president.