SPONSORED:

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 TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills 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 (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE’s probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinMurkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo Democrats ask FBI for plans to address domestic extremism following Capitol attack Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts 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 CollinsKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate 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 MurkowskiOvernight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo 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 SchumerChuck SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas 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 CornynPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Democrats look to improve outreach to Asian and Latino communities MORE (R-Texas) said Kavanaugh’s comments just “sounded like a law professor.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack Senate confirms Vilsack as Agriculture secretary 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley says he'll decide this fall whether to run in 2022 Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation Durbin: Garland likely to get confirmation vote next week 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) ManchinKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Klain says Harris would not overrule parliamentarian on minimum wage increase On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEverybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big 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 McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE wouldn’t meet and sit down” with Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan McConnell backs Garland for attorney general Biden can redeem checkered past and regenerate hope for millions with criminal justice reform MORE, former President Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

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