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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 TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump 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 Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief Pentagon puts on show of force as questions circle on COVID-19 outbreak Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety 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 JayapalInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks 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 BustosDemocratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 Maloney vows to overhaul a House Democratic campaign machine 'stuck in the past' 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 GrassleyCongress ends its year under shadow of COVID-19 Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate MORE [R-Iowa] or Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMellman: What happened after Ginsburg? Bottom line Bottom line 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 CollinsBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate 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 PelosiOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases House Democrats urge congressional leaders to support .1B budget for IRS Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Calif.) pressed Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan calls for Trump to accept results: 'The election is over' Bottom line Democratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition 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 ComstockFormer GOP congressman calls for Biden to receive presidential briefings Former GOP lawmakers call on Trump to accept election results Live coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings MORE (Va.), Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanColorado governor says he was not exposed to COVID-19 after Aurora mayor tests positive Colorado mayor says he called protesters 'domestic terrorists' out of 'frustration' Colorado governor directs officials to reexamine death of Elijah McClain in police custody MORE (Colo.), Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members House adjusts format for dinner with new members after criticism Former GOP congressman calls for Biden to receive presidential briefings MORE (Fla.), Steve Knight (Calif.) and Leonard LanceLeonard LanceThomas Kean wins GOP primary to take on Rep. Tom Malinowski Gun debate to shape 2020 races GOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs 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 ClintonBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Katko fends off Democratic opponent in New York race Harris County GOP chairman who made racist Facebook post resigns 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.”