Alaska US senator says he will support Barrett nomination

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said he will support the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, calling her an “exceptional jurist.”

Sullivan announced his support Wednesday, as the Republican-led Senate pushes to confirm Barrett in the coming days.

In 2016, Sullivan agreed with fellow Republicans in not advancing then-President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, which was made months ahead of that year's election. At the time, Sullivan said the decision was about principle, noting the country was “in the midst of an important national election.”

President Donald Trump, who was elected that year, nominated Barrett in late September, just over five weeks before the Nov. 3 election in which he is seeking re-election. Sullivan last month said the “historical precedent and principle of an election year nomination” is that the Senate “has generally confirmed a President’s nominee from its own party and not confirmed one from the opposing party.”

He said Trump was within his authority to put forth a nominee.

In evaluating Barrett, Sullivan, who also faces re-election, said he met with her, read decisions she had written and listened to and read comments from Alaskans for and against her nomination.

Al Gross, an independent running with Democratic support in challenging Sullivan, said he opposes Barrett's nomination. Gross cited concerns with how Barrett would vote on the Affordable Care Act and abortion issues. Gross supports abortion rights and has said he will oppose any Supreme Court decision that “weakens or threatens” the health care law, which was passed under Obama.