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 TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report 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 SpeierHouse to vote on measure opposing transgender military ban Overnight Defense: Senate breaks with Trump on Yemen war | Shanahan hit with ethics complaint over Boeing ties | Pentagon rolls out order to implement transgender ban | Dem chair throws cold water on Space Force budget Hillicon Valley: US threatens to hold intel from Germany over Huawei | GOP senator targets FTC over privacy | Bipartisan bill would beef up 'internet of things' security | Privacy groups seize on suspended NSA program | Tesla makes U-turn 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 JayapalOn The Money: Trump issues emergency order grounding Boeing 737 Max jets | Senate talks over emergency resolution collapse | Progressives seek defense freeze in budget talks Progressives seek defense freeze in budget talks House Dems reintroduce the Dream Act 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 BustosDems seek to stifle primary challenges to incumbents Progressive demands put new pressures on Democrats House Dems haul in record donations for February 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 GrassleyTreasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' Drug prices are a matter of life and death MORE [R-Iowa] or Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchNY's political prosecution of Manafort should scare us all Congress must break its addiction to unjust tax extenders The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate 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 CollinsSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi, Dems plot strategy after end of Mueller probe Coons after Russia probe: House Dems need to use power in 'focused and responsible way' Trump, Congress brace for Mueller findings MORE (D-Calif.) pressed Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFormer Dem candidate says he faced cultural barriers on the campaign trail because he is working-class Former House candidate and ex-ironworker says there is 'buyer's remorse' for Trump in Midwest Head of top hedge fund association to step down 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 ComstockGOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door Ex-lawmakers face new scrutiny over lobbying Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (Va.), Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanDenver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator MORE (Colo.), Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloEx-GOP lawmaker joins marijuana trade group Dems think they're beating Trump in emergency declaration battle Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign 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 ClintonIf Mueller's report lacks indictments, collusion is a delusion Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report The wisdom of Trump's lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller's report 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.”