Trump pick Kavanaugh has ‘productive’ meeting with Manchin

Trump pick Kavanaugh has ‘productive’ meeting with Manchin
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE’s nominee to the Supreme Court met for two hours on Monday with Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGabbard cites ‘concerns’ about ‘vagueness’ of Green New Deal Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general MORE (W.Va.), the first Democrat to publicly grant an interview with Brett Kavanaugh.

Manchin is one of three Democrats who voted for Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, and is widely seen as one of the most likely Democratic "yes" votes for the president’s second pick for the court.

Manchin tried to keep a low profile on Monday and did not schedule an availability with reporters after his closed-door meeting with Kavanaugh, something he did do during Gorsuch’s nomination process.

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But that didn’t stop dozens of reporters from camping outside his office, underscoring the media spotlight on Manchin ahead of the confirmation vote and this fall’s midterms.

Manchin called the meeting “productive” and said the two discussed “everything,” but declined to get into specifics on ObamaCare, abortion or executive authority and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe.

“He was very upfront, very honest. ... I told him my thing is now to wait until he has a Judiciary hearing. When the hearing is over I will want to call him back,” Manchin said.

Democrats have sought to keep their caucus united as they try to pressure at least one Republican senator to oppose Kavanaugh.

Blocking Kavanaugh would hand Democrats a significant victory ahead of the midterms, though they appear to face an uphill climb.

Though no Democrats have come out in favor of Kavanaugh, Manchin and fellow vulnerable centrist Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (Ind.) are facing enormous pressure.

Still, Manchin’s decision to hold a second meeting with Kavanaugh could keep him on the fence until at least September, when the Judiciary Committee is expected to hold a hearing.

Heidi Hess, the co-director of Credo Action, urged Manchin not to turn a “blind eye” toward Kavanaugh’s record on issues like health care.

With Republicans holding a 51-49 Senate majority, Democrats can’t block Kavanaugh on their own.

Although Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech MORE (R-Ariz.) is absent battling brain cancer, basically topping the GOP vote at 50, Democrats cannot afford a single defection.

Kavanaugh’s nomination got a boost on Monday when Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times The 10 GOP senators who may break with Trump on emergency On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE (R-Ky.) announced he would support Trump’s pick.

Paul was considered a potential swing vote because of his concerns about Kavanaugh’s stance on the Fourth Amendment, which established the right to privacy.

Democrats hope they can make Republicans play defense by forcing them to respond to their messaging on health care, executive authority and an increasingly heated fight over Kavanaugh’s work as staff secretary in the George W. Bush administration.

Aside from Manchin, Donnelly is the only other Democrat to have announced a meeting with Kavanaugh.

Republicans, for their part, seized on Manchin’s meeting to target other vulnerable red-state Democrats.

Michael McAdams, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), knocked Heitkamp, who supported Gorsuch but hasn’t announced a meeting with Kavanaugh, saying she should “stop the political games.”

“Instead of waiting for Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE to make a decision, Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenators highlight threat from invasive species Overnight Defense: Top general wasn't consulted on Syria withdrawal | Senate passes bill breaking with Trump on Syria | What to watch for in State of the Union | US, South Korea reach deal on troop costs GOP senators think Trump would win vote on emergency declaration MORE has stood with voters and strongly supported Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and that’s exactly the type of leadership North Dakota needs,” McAdams said, referring to Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Heitkamp’s opponent in the Senate race.

Heitkamp has said that she plans to meet with Kavanaugh.

Democratic leaders are under intense pressure to keep their members in line.

Some progressive outside groups are urging Schumer to whip the vote and use his influence as Senate Democratic leader, including using committee positions and leadership spots as leverage to keep Democrats from backing Kavanaugh.

Hess called the fight over Kavanaugh a “key test” of Schumer’s leadership.

“I think that you do not become the leader of one of the parties in the Senate without knowing how to use a range of tactics to get what you want,” she said. "I don’t think it’s true that Sen. Schumer doesn’t have a range of tactics at his disposal.”

Schumer, however, appeared to signal he won’t play hardball with members of his own caucus, telling The Washington Post that “punishment is not how this place works.”

“Everyone knows we’re not in charge,” Schumer told the Post. “People want to see that you’ve made the fight and done it in a smart way.”