Progressive groups hit Schumer on efforts to block Kavanaugh nomination

Progressive groups hit Schumer on efforts to block Kavanaugh nomination
© Anna Moneymaker

A coalition of progressive outside groups is stepping up criticism of Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE's handling of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Thirteen progressive groups sent a letter to Schumer on Wednesday panning the New York Democrat's Supreme Court strategy as "failing."

"Your job as Senate Democratic leader is to lead your caucus in complete opposition to Trump's attempted Supreme Court takeover and to defend everyone threatened by a Trump Supreme Court," the groups said.

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They added that the Supreme Court is "on the line," and Schumer is "failing us."

Progressive anger over Schumer's handling of Kavanaugh's nomination has been building for weeks over concerns that he won't pressure the Democratic caucus to unite early in opposition.

"The Democratic Party's progressive base expects nothing less than all-out resistance to Trump's dangerous agenda," the groups wrote in Wednesday's letter. "They know that anything less than 49 Democratic votes against Kavanaugh would be a massive failure of your leadership." 

They added that, "unbelievably, nearly two dozen Democrats have still not come out against Kavanaugh. ... That is not the leadership we need."

The groups argued that Schumer appeared willing to "sacrifice the Supreme Court" in an effort to try to hold onto Democratic seats in the November election, where the party faces a difficult map. Kavanaugh, if confirmed, is expected to tilt the court to the right for decades by giving conservatives a fifth vote.

"[It] is not only strategically and morally wrong, it will fail. It is wrong to assume that a no vote on Kavanaugh puts red-state Democrats in electoral peril or somehow protects them from Republican attacks," they wrote.

Three Democrats, Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOn The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes MORE (N.D.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyObama honors 'American statesman' Richard Lugar Former GOP senator Richard Lugar dies at 87 Ralph Reed: Biden is a 'formidable and strong candidate' MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinLabor head warns of 'frightening uptick' in black lung disease among miners Labor leader: Trump has stopped erosion of coal jobs Overnight Energy: States fight Trump rollback of Obama lightbulb rules | Greens seek hearing over proposed rule on energy efficiency tests | Top Dem asks GAO to investigate climate threat MORE (W.Va.), voted for Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first Supreme Court nominee. They are each up for reelection in states easily won by Trump.

But Schumer and other Democratic senators have dismissed the notion that he could effectively pressure vulnerable incumbents into opposing a Supreme Court nominee. Schumer told The Washington Post in July that "pressure is not how this place works."

Credo, Democracy for America, Indivisible, UltraViolet, 350.org, Color Of Change, DailyKos, Demand Progress, Friends of the Earth, Justice Democrats, Social Security Works, #VOTEPROCHOICE and Women's March signed onto Wednesday's letter.

Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee began Tuesday, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE's second Supreme Court nominee in two years being introduced to lawmakers by top Republicans including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ohio Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget WANTED: A Republican with courage Companies warn Trump trade war is about to hit consumers MORE (R).

Senate Democrats and dozens of protesters repeatedly interrupted the first day of the hearing, sparking frustration from Republicans and chaos within the committee room.

Democrats, who are unlikely to block the confirmation in the GOP-held Senate, set the pace for the hearing by sparring, cajoling and pleading with Republicans to delay the hearing or reject Kavanaugh outright.

--John Bowden contributed to this report, which was updated at 7:57 a.m.