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Rand Paul will support Trump's pick Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) questions Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 25, 2018. Pompeo said here that President Donald Trump is “well aware of the challenges that Russia poses” and defended Trump’s meeting in Finland with President Vladimir Putin. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Copyright 2018)

WASHINGTON - Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Monday that he will support President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, giving Judge Brett Kavanaugh key support from an unpredictable lawmaker.

Paul said that he had concerns about Kavanaugh's record on privacy and government data collection. But after meeting with him, he opted to back the appeals court judge, despite their differences.

"No one will ever completely agree with a nominee," Paul said in a written statement announcing his decision. "Each nominee, however, must be judged on the totality of their views, character, and opinions."

Paul's decision removes a potential obstacle for Senate Republican leaders, who are looking to confirm Kavanaugh in the fall. The libertarian-leaning senator has frequently bucked party leadership.

While many Republicans believed he would ultimately fall in line, the possibility that he would hold out until later this year threatened to complicate matters for Trump and top Senate Republicans.

The Kentucky senator's announcement came on the same day Kavanaugh planned to hold his first meeting with a Democratic senator: Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Manchin, a centrist facing reelection in a state Trump won overwhelmingly, has sounded open to voting for Kavanaugh.

Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate, making every vote crucial to Kavanaugh's success or failure. With Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., away from the Senate undergoing treatment for a severe form of brain cancer, one Republican "no" vote would be enough to sink Kavanaugh, if all Democrats were to vote against him.

The two biggest remaining Republican question marks are Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, who favor abortion rights and broke ranks with their party's effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last year.

Democratic senators and activists who oppose Kavanaugh have cast him as a threat to ACA and abortion rights. They have also raised concerns that he has too broad a view of presidential power. Republicans have dismissed their complaints.

Anti-Kavanaugh forces are hopeful that their three-pronged attack will be enough to persuade Collins and Murkowski, as well as moderate Democrats, to stand against him. At the same time, those lawmakers are also coming under opposing pressure from conservatives to back him.

Democrats acknowledge that they face a challenging endeavor and that even uniting all the party's senators against Kavanaugh may not ultimately happen.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised to fight Kavanaugh with everything he's got. But he is giving centrist Democrats in his caucus some space to make up their minds.

Manchin is one of three Democratic senators who crossed party lines and voted to confirm Judge Neil. M Gorsuch to the Supreme Court last year. The other two are Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Like Manchin, both face challenging reelection campaigns in Trump-friendly states.

Donnelly plans to meet with Kavanaugh in August.

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This article was written by Sean Sullivan, a reporter for The Washington Post.

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