Senate

Trump pick Kavanaugh has ‘productive’ meeting with Manchin

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President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court met for two hours on Monday with Sen. Joe Manchin (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.

{mosads}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 Mueller’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 Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (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 McCain (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 Paul (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 Schumer to make a decision, Kevin Cramer 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.”

Tags Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin John McCain Kevin Cramer Rand Paul Robert Mueller Senate Supreme Court
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