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 TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE’s pick and score a major victory heading into the midterm elections.

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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) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE’s probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSupreme Court poised to hear first major gun case in a decade Protecting the future of student data privacy: The time to act is now Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban 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 CollinsRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Group of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' Defense bill includes fix for military families' survivor benefits 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 MurkowskiPotential Dem defectors face pressure on impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - A crucial week on impeachment Senate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules 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 SchumerKrystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments 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 CornynHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling Lighthizer starts GOP charm offensive on Trump trade deal MORE (R-Texas) said Kavanaugh’s comments just “sounded like a law professor.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMellman: Looking to Iowa Pelosi gets standing ovation at Kennedy Center Honors Senate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules 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 GrassleyLighthizer starts GOP charm offensive on Trump trade deal Bottom line Graham: FBI investigation in 2016 turned into a 'criminal conspiracy' 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) ManchinManchin warns he'll slow-walk government funding bill until he gets deal on miners legislation Krystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? Potential Dem defectors face pressure on impeachment MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyGinsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle Watchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world 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 McConnellRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial On The Money: Pelosi, Trump tout deal on new NAFTA | McConnell says no trade vote until impeachment trial wraps up | Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday McConnell: Senate impeachment trial will begin in January MORE wouldn’t meet and sit down” with Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandAppeals court clears way for Congress to seek Trump financial records Divisive docket to test Supreme Court ahead of 2020 Majority disapprove of Trump Supreme Court nominations, says poll MORE, former President Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

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