Dems struggle on Kavanaugh

Democrats are struggling to find an opening in their fight to sink Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

They can’t block the nominee on their own, but they’re under intense pressure from liberals to wage a full-scale attack against Kavanaugh as they try to sway the one or two Republicans needed to sink President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE’s pick and score a major victory heading into the midterm elections.

ADVERTISEMENT

In the roughly two weeks since Kavanaugh was announced as Trump’s pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, Democrats have jumped from abortion and the Affordable Care Act to what his past writings on executive authority could mean for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin: ‘No reason’ for people to remember Kavanaugh at party accuser describes Durbin: Kavanaugh's accuser is not being treated respectfully Grassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap MORE (D-Ill.) acknowledged that while he believes their tactics are reverberating with the American public, Republican senators are a “smaller audience.”

“Well, it’s an unfolding script here,” he told The Hill. “Health care was obvious because it’s timely, but the more we dig into statements made by Judge Kavanaugh, he’s raised a lot of issues. I can’t tell you which one is going to stick at this point.”

He added that while it’s a “little early” to determine what could win over Republicans, health care and Kavanaugh’s views on executive authority are “two powerful issues.”

Still, none of the Democratic attacks have gained much traction with Republicans.

GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsKavanaugh accuser set to testify Thursday McConnell told Trump criticism of Kavanaugh accuser isn't helpful: report Dems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage MORE (Maine) — viewed as a potential swing vote in the immediate aftermath of Kennedy’s retirement announcement — has sounded fairly positive about Kavanaugh’s credentials as she works through what she referred to as his “voluminous” record.

Collins says she doesn’t plan to ask Kavanaugh about his “personal views” on Roe v. Wade — the 1973 case that established the right to an abortion — but wants a Supreme Court justice to be able to put aside their personal views and make an “impartial” decision.

When asked if she had reviewed his writings on executive authority, she added that she is having meetings “virtually every day,” but declined to discuss specifics as she reviews his decades-long paper trail.

Collins and Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiKavanaugh accuser set to testify Thursday Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Murkowski says she’ll wait until Ford testifies before making decision on Kavanaugh MORE (R-Alaska) have been targeted heavily by progressive groups because of their previous breaks with their party on health care, namely their opposition to last year’s GOP plan to repeal ObamaCare and their votes against legislation that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks.

“There is a rigorous campaign underway right now in Maine. There’s like a $3 million media buy, which is huge in my state,” Collins said. “So you can’t turn on the television or the radio or go on the internet without seeing ads. But those kinds of things are not going to have an influence on my vote.”

In addition to health care and abortion, where Democrats warn Kavanaugh could be a swing vote on the bench, they’ve increasingly hammered him over his skepticism of the Supreme Court’s 1974 ruling in U.S. v. Nixon, which required President Nixon to turn over his tape recordings.

In 1999, Kavanaugh questioned if the case had been “wrongly decided” and if “tensions of the time led to an erroneous decision.” His comments were turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of his questionnaire response.

“If Kavanaugh would’ve let Nixon off the hook, what is he willing to do for President Trump?” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) asked from the Senate floor.

But top GOP senators have brushed aside Democratic concerns and accused them of cherry-picking quotes from Kavanaugh, who has also defended the decades-old Supreme Court ruling.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford MORE (R-Texas) said Kavanaugh’s comments just “sounded like a law professor.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulA Senator Gary Johnson could be good not just for Libertarians, but for the Senate too Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE (R-Ky.), another potential swing vote, met with Kavanaugh on Tuesday for roughly an hour after describing himself as “honestly undecided.”

Paul’s skepticism about Kavanaugh boils down to his positions on the Fourth Amendment, which established the constitutional right to privacy.

Paul’s libertarian-minded views have, at times, rankled his colleagues, and those views position him as a potential foil to GOP leadership plans.

But the GOP senator would face a mountain of pressure from his Republican colleagues and the administration to back Kavanaugh. And top senators in both parties are skeptical that Paul, who has worked to build a relationship with Trump, would cast the deciding vote to sink his Supreme Court nominee.

Asked about the chances of Paul voting against Kavanaugh, Durbin chuckled.

“He’s a perennial tease, as are many other Republicans,” Durbin said. “They get a lot of press attention but rarely if ever will break from their party.”

The hunt for a message that could win over just a couple of GOP colleagues comes as Democrats are digging in on their demand for documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House, where he worked as legal counsel and as staff secretary.

So far, Republicans are dismissing the broad document demands, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Feinstein calls for hold on Kavanaugh consideration Grassley releases letter detailing Kavanaugh sexual assault allegation MORE (R-Iowa) warning against the review becoming a “fishing expedition.”

“I want to see documents that he himself wrote,” Collins said on Tuesday. “It does not make sense to ask for those documents just because he touched them, initialed them.” 

“There’s a difference between what he drafted versus the paper push,” she added.

Several top Democrats, including Schumer, are delaying meeting with Kavanaugh until they make progress on a documents deal.

But those tactics aren’t uniting the conference, and they have become another example of the difficulty Democrats face in remaining united against Kavanaugh.

Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGOP plays defense on ObamaCare’s pre-existing conditions Doug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh Cook Political Report moves Texas Senate race to ‘toss-up’ MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDoug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination MORE (Ind.) — Democrats running in states Trump won in 2016 — both announced this week that they had scheduled meetings with Kavanaugh.

When asked about his colleagues’ unwillingness to meet with Kavanaugh, Manchin blasted the tactic as “disrespectful.”

“That’s something that I would absolutely rail against,” Manchin said, adding that he thought it was “horrible when Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Kavanaugh accuser set to testify Thursday McConnell told Trump criticism of Kavanaugh accuser isn't helpful: report MORE wouldn’t meet and sit down” with Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandFeinstein to GOP: Show some heart to Kavanaugh accuser Dem senator praises Ford opening the door to testifying Budowsky: Kavanaugh and the rights of women MORE, former President Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

“That’s not a precedent that should be followed,” Manchin said.