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 TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus 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 SpeierDemocrats introduce bill to combat sexual harassment at State Department Overnight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies House to vote on 'I Am Vanessa Guillén' bill 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 Jayapal'One more serious try' on COVID-19 relief yields progress but no deal Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs 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 BustosThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden asks if public can trust vaccine from Trump ahead of Election Day | Oklahoma health officials raised red flags before Trump rally DCCC dropping million on voter education program Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race 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 - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate GOP seeks to redirect criticism over Trump tax returns Grassley says disclosing Trump's tax records without authorization could violate law MORE [R-Iowa] or Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchBottom line Bottom line Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  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 CollinsGOP senators pan debate: 'S---show,' 'awful,' 'embarrassment' Budowsky: Senate's Trump Republicans on trial, in trouble Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 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 PelosiTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse On The Money: 'One more serious try' on COVID relief yields progress but no deal | Trump tax bombshell shines light on IRS enforcement | Senate passes bill to avert shutdown hours before deadline 'One more serious try' on COVID-19 relief yields progress but no deal MORE (D-Calif.) pressed Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's debate game plan? Keep cool and win Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose RNC chair on election: We are on track to win the White House 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 CoffmanColorado mayor says he called protesters 'domestic terrorists' out of 'frustration' Colorado governor directs officials to reexamine death of Elijah McClain in police custody Petition demanding justice for Elijah McClain surpasses 2 million signatures MORE (Colo.), Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloThe Memo: Trump furor stokes fears of unrest GOP wants more vision, policy from Trump at convention Mucarsel-Powell, Giménez to battle for Florida swing district 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 ClintonTrump crowd chants 'lock her up' about Omar as president warns of refugees in Minnesota Democrats say Biden survived brutal debate — and that's enough Comey defends FBI Russia probe from GOP criticism 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.”