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 TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation 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 SpeierSenator-jurors who may not be impartial? Remove them for cause Poll: 69 percent of Americans say they are watching impeachment closely The Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment face-off; Dems go after Buttigieg in debate 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 JayapalSanders announces Iowa campaign swing with AOC, Michael Moore Lawmakers introduce bill to reform controversial surveillance authorities Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden 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 Bustos Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders, Warren feud rattles Democrats House Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts 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 GrassleyTrump to sign USMCA next Wednesday Trump administration releases rule to restrict 'birth tourism' On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Grassley signs USMCA, sending it to Trump's desk | Union membership falls to record low | Manufacturers want Trump tax provision made permanent | Warren presses banks on climate plans MORE [R-Iowa] or Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals 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 CollinsSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses Susan Collins asked Justice Roberts to intervene after Nadler late-night 'cover-up' accusation 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 PelosiDemocrats hammer abuse of power charge, allege Trump put self over country Overnight Energy: Trump issues rule replacing Obama-era waterway protections | Pelosi slams new rule as 'an outrageous assault' | Trump water policy exposes sharp divides Pelosi slams Trump administration's new water rule: 'An outrageous assault' MORE (D-Calif.) pressed Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHill.TV's Saagar Enjeti rips Sanders for 'inability to actually fight with bad actors' in party Biden fires back at Sanders on Social Security Warren now also knocking Biden on Social Security 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 ComstockLive coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Gun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats MORE (Va.), Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform MORE (Colo.), Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloRepublicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP MORE (Fla.), Steve Knight (Calif.) and Leonard LanceLeonard LanceGun debate to shape 2020 races GOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Bottom Line 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 ClintonSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti defends Tulsi Gabbard's lawsuit against Hillary Clinton Trump to hold rally on eve of New Hampshire primary 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.”