Dems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage

Dems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage
© Greg Nash

House Democrats increasingly see the controversy swirling around Brett Kavanaugh as a political boon just weeks ahead of the midterm elections — a saga they think will energize female voters already put off by President TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again MORE and threatening to bring their frustrations to the polls.

“Beware of the wrath of women scorned, Mr. President and Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.],” said Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierDemocratic lawmaker on Iran: 'We are provoking them, we are taunting them' Overnight Defense: Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy | Trump, Macron downplay rift on Iran | Trump mourns West Point cadet's death in accident | Pentagon closes review of deadly Niger ambush Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: 'You are the pride of our nation' MORE (D-Calif.). “It will be your party’s downfall.”

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Senate Republicans are pressing for a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, despite Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that he sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers decades ago. Kavanaugh has fiercely denied the allegations.

In the #MeToo era, Democrats think the Kavanaugh controversy poses a huge political risk to Republicans.

“It is making absolutely sure that women across the country — in both parties, frankly — are paying attention. … That is not good for the Republicans,” Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOcasio-Cortez: It was easier to get elected to Congress than pay off student loan debt House Democratic leaders work to secure votes for border bill Republican lawmaker: Plan to #CancelStudentDebt 'is immoral' MORE (D-Wash.) said Friday in a phone call. “Many of the races for the midterms will depend on what women, including suburban women and rural women, do.”

Democrats have long accused Republicans of waging a “war on women” when it comes to federal policy, pointing to issues as varied as abortion rights, pay equity, paid family leave and efforts to combat domestic violence. They see the Republican attacks on Ford — including a tweet from Trump on Friday — as an extension of that broader theme.

“We are already motivated, Democratic women, and I can tell you this is not going to tamp down the enthusiasm,” Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosDemocrats already jockeying for House leadership posts The bottom dollar on recession, Trump's base, and his reelection prospects DCCC says it raised .85 million in May MORE (D-Ill.), who heads the Democrats’ messaging arm, said Friday by phone. “If Republicans don’t want to get to the truth on this, that is not going to help them politically.”

Bustos, who represents a rural Illinois district that Trump carried in 2016, said the issue is front-and-center on the minds of voters in her region, whose responses have been “all over the board.” There is, however, a common thread: Voters of all stripes, she said, want the truth surrounding the allegations to emerge before Kavanaugh is confirmed for a lifetime post. The Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee — all of them male — risk a backlash if they ignore those pleas, Bustos warned.

“I think she’s credible; I think she’s believable; and I don’t think [Sens.] Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Senate Finance leaders in talks on deal to limit drug price increases Million-dollar drugs pose new challenge for Congress MORE [R-Iowa] or Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE [R-Utah] or anybody else on the Senate Judiciary understands how the girls feel in that situation,” Bustos said. “I don’t think Charles Grassley has ever had a man jump on top of him, cover his mouth and try to rip off his clothes.”

Kavanaugh’s confirmation, seen as a sure bet just a week ago, has been upended by Ford’s allegations, which have captivated Washington and sent GOP leaders scrambling to reach a deal with Ford’s attorney on a hearing. The on-again, off-again negotiations have been muddled by disagreements over when — and how — Ford will present her case.

McConnell on Friday vowed the Republicans will confirm Kavanaugh “in the very near future.”

“We’re going to plow right through it and do our job,” he told conservative activists at the Family Research Council’s annual Values Voter Summit in Washington.

Trump’s remarks Friday that questioned why Ford didn’t come forward earlier with her accusations ended a stretch where he stayed on-message over the issue, and earned a quick rebuke from a pivotal GOP senator.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' Susan Collins: Trump's 'she's not my type' defense is 'extremely bizarre' The Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations MORE (Maine) has not decided how she will vote on the Kavanaugh nomination, but made clear she was “appalled by the president’s tweet.”

“First of all, we know that allegations of sexual assault — I’m not saying that’s what happened in this case — but we know allegations of sexual assault are one of the most unreported crimes that exist,” Collins said at an event in Portland, Maine. “So I thought that the president’s tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong.”

Collins said she preferred to have Kavanaugh and Ford testify on Monday, but had no problem delaying the hearing until Wednesday or Thursday.

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.), who is being targeted by Democrats in an Orange County district that’s turning bluer, agreed with Collins and urged the Senate not to rush to confirm Kavanaugh.  

“Christine Ford has raised a very serious issue and it is not uncommon for victims to wait months or even years to come forward,” Walters said in a statement. “The Senate needs to give her the opportunity to be heard and needs to consider all the facts and testimony before any vote takes place."

The Kavanaugh uproar arrives as the parties are battling over the future of the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, a decades-old law designed to rein in domestic violence.

On Monday, House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSenate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House Pelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July Trump says he spoke to Pelosi, McConnell on border package MORE (D-Calif.) pressed Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBooker prepping for first 2020 debate with bicep curls Democratic debates: What the top candidates need to do Paul Ryan praises Trump: 'He's not taking any crap' MORE (R-Wis.) to scrap his plan for a short-term VAWA extension and instead work to pass a full reauthorization of the law this month.

Walters is among a handful of House Republicans pushing to renew VAWA before it expires on Sept. 30. Others on the list of co-sponsors include some of the most vulnerable Republicans of the cycle: Reps. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers GOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door Ex-lawmakers face new scrutiny over lobbying MORE (Va.), Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanKoch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' MORE (Colo.), Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Disinvited GOP lawmaker turns up at Dem hearing MORE (Fla.), Steve Knight (Calif.) and Leonard LanceLeonard LancePush for ‘Medicare for all’ worries centrist Dems Incoming Dem lawmaker: Trump 'sympathizes' with leaders 'accused of moral transgressions' On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report MORE (N.J.).

Lance is in a tough race with Democrat Tom Malinowski, a former Obama administration official, in a wealthy, suburban district that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again Don't expect Trump-sized ratings for Democratic debates Ocasio-Cortez on Biden: 'I think that he's not a pragmatic choice' MORE won by 1 percentage point in 2016. A new Monmouth poll showed Malinowski beating Lance, a five-term incumbent, 47 percent to 39 percent among potential voters.

“The allegations should be taken seriously and investigated,” Lance told The Hill, “and Judge Kavanaugh should have the opportunity to respond.”

The Democrats’ national campaign team, meanwhile, has pounced on the Kavanaugh saga in an effort to rally Democrats ahead of November’s elections. Twice this week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has blasted fundraising emails highlighting the assault allegations and hammering Senate Republicans for pressing forward with the confirmation process.

It remains unclear, however, how aggressively Democrats will push the Kavanaugh issue in the weeks to come before the elections. A DCCC spokesperson declined multiple requests for comment this week.

If Speier is any indication, though, Democrats have no plans to let up.

“American women aren’t stupid and weren’t born yesterday. They see through the contorted, pretzel-like effort by Senate Republicans who are trying to put Dr. Blasey Ford on trial and undermine her credibility,” she said.

“Republicans are going to see a backlash at the polls this November.”