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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 TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports 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) 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 DurbinMcConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment Officials brace for second Trump impeachment trial Sunday shows - Capital locked down ahead of Biden's inauguration 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 CollinsThe Memo: Biden prepares for sea of challenges Biden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party 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 MurkowskiMcConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment FDA chief says he was 'disgusted' by Capitol riots, considered resigning The Memo: Biden prepares for sea of challenges 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 SchumerNew York court worker arrested, accused of threats related to inauguration Schumer: Trump should not be eligible to run for office again McConnnell, McCarthy accept Biden invitation to pre-inauguration church service 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 CornynMcConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment Schumer: Trump should not be eligible to run for office again Harris to resign from Senate seat on Monday MORE (R-Texas) said Kavanaugh’s comments just “sounded like a law professor.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Legislatures boost security after insurrection, FBI warnings Former Missouri senator says backing Hawley was 'worst mistake of my life' 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 GrassleyYellen champions big spending at confirmation hearing Yellen says it's important to 'act big' on coronavirus relief 3 ways Biden will reshape regulatory policy 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) ManchinMcConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag Josh Hawley has a new publisher — that's good news This week: Tensions running high in Trump's final days MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty 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 McConnellTrump has talked to associates about forming new political party: report McConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment MORE wouldn’t meet and sit down” with Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandBiden's new challenge: Holding Trump accountable Graham says he'll back Biden's CIA pick A Democratic agenda for impossibly hard times MORE, former President Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

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