© Anna Moneymaker
Senate moderates are brushing aside attempts by Democratic leadership to link Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the political fallout sparked by President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE's former lawyer Michael Cohen's guilty plea.
Democratic leadership and 2020 White House contenders have seized on Cohen referring to the president as an unnamed co-conspirator in his guilty plea and talk of a potential pardon for Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ investigating one-time Trump campaign adviser over alleged ties to Qatar: report Foreign lobbyists donated over M during 2020 election: report Former Mueller prosecutor representing Donoghue in congressional probes: report MORE, Trump's former campaign manger, to reignite their argument that Kavanaugh's nomination should be delayed.
"I repeat my plea: We should delay the hearing of Judge Kavanaugh, at the very minimum, until the full record on everything he has said and done on executive authority is made public," Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.) said from the Senate floor.
But Democratic calls to delay Kavanaugh's hearing or link him with the political fallout from Cohen and Manafort appear to be falling flat with the group of moderate senators who will make or break the nomination.
Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan MORE (D-Mont.) appeared to shrug off a question about delaying the hearing, noting he was focused on "gathering information" and setting up a meeting with Kavanaugh.
"We might have a different opinion after we've gathered our information and have met with him but ... as for right now it's about getting the information out of the Judiciary Committee so I can make a good decision," he told The Hill.
Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin fires warning shot on plan to expand Medicare Panic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda Enhanced infrastructure plan is the best way to go MORE (W.Va.), one of three Democrats to support Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first Supreme Court pick, similarly broke with party leadership early Wednesday evening, saying delaying the hearing was "not right."
And GOP senators considered swing votes — or those who are vocal critics of Trump — are similarly distancing themselves from linking the two issues.
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase MORE (R-Maine) noted to reporters that she didn't see a reason to delay the hearing.
Meanwhile, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Trump, allies launch onslaught as midterms kick into gear MORE (R-Alaska), who will meet with Kavanaugh later Thursday, sidestepped a question about going forward with the hearing in the wake of Cohen's plea deal.
"I do have the opportunity to sit with him so that's what I'm going to do," she said.
Murkowski will be the final Republican senator, aside from Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg signs four-year deal with ABC to stay on 'The View' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Meghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden MORE (Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer in Arizona, to meet with Kavanaugh.
And GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (Ariz.), a vocal critic of Trump who is retiring after 2018, said the hearing should go on as scheduled and that he was "inclined" to support Kavanaugh.
"Obviously I'm inclined. I've met with him," Flake, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told The Hill. "He's certainly qualified, but we'll have hearings."
Democrats are powerless to prevent Kavanaugh's hearing from going forward without help from Republicans.
Though the decision ultimately rests with Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyCongress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B Biden confronts sinking poll numbers Congress needs to push for more accountability in gymnasts' tragic sex abuse MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, progressives had hoped that they could use the escalating legal troubles of Trump's orbit to sway a few Republican senators into helping hold up Kavanaugh's nomination as they get more documents from his work in the George W. Bush White House.
Democrats are signaling they view the fight over executive authority — and if Kavanaugh would help protect Trump from any court case spinning out of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's investigation — as a potent issue given the Cohen plea deal and the separate conviction of Manafort.
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSchumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Democrats surprised, caught off guard by 'framework' deal Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook MORE (D-Ill.) noted that Kavanaugh gave him an unsatisfactory answer during their meeting about his views on indicting and investigating a sitting president and predicted the questions would come back up.
"That's what he gave me. That's the best that he could give me. ...He'll face that question again, I'm sure, during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing," Durbin said, referring to questions about a Minnesota Law Review article where Kavanaugh appeared to argue against indicting a sitting president and warned that an ongoing criminal investigation would be a distraction.
But pressed if he thought Democrats' argument was getting through to swing-vote senators in both party, Durbin suggested maybe they needed to hear from home-state voters.
"Maybe a trip home will change their views. Maybe it will change ours," he said. "But I think it [the hearing] should be postponed at least until this documentation is produced."