Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski

Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski
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Red-state Senate Democrats, so far holding the line against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, are expected to wait on centrist Republican Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLooking to the past to secure America's clean energy future Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Trump, allies launch onslaught as midterms kick into gear MORE (Alaska) before announcing their own positions.

No Democrat has yet come out in support of Kavanaugh, more than a week after his confirmation hearings wrapped up. Last year, Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Poll from liberal group shows more voters in key states back .5T bill Why Democrats opposing Biden's tax plan have it wrong MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE (N.D.) announced their support for President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, one week after his hearings ended. 

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The Democratic leadership’s strategy is to keep the pressure on Collins and Murkowski by not letting anyone from their caucus break ranks and support Kavanaugh before the nominee is assured of having enough GOP votes to pass. 

Democrats are hoping the swing Republicans may be swayed by a new anonymous allegation of sexual misconduct from Kavanaugh’s high school days that Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFederal watchdog calls on Congress, Energy Dept. to overhaul nuclear waste storage process Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap MORE (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, has referred to federal authorities. 

Collins held a one-hour phone conversation with Kavanaugh on Friday, but it was scheduled before Feinstein announced the allegation. 

The two GOP moderates have split with their conference on major legislation in the past, including casting votes in defense of abortion rights and ObamaCare, issues that advocates point out could come before Kavanaugh on the high court.

Any Democrat who jumps out ahead of Collins or Murkowski would come under attack from the party’s base. As it is, centrist Democrats have come under criticism for staying neutral. 

“It is not an achievement for Democrats to have so far avoided endorsing Brett Kavanaugh. It would be an achievement if they oppose him,” said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, a group opposed to the nominee.

Last year, Collins announced her support for Gorsuch on March 28, two days before Manchin declared his backing, followed by Heitkamp and later Democratic Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sanders traveling to Iowa, Indiana to pitch Biden's spending package Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda MORE (Ind.). Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly all face tough reelection races this year in states won by Trump in 2016.

Murkowski praised Gorsuch in glowing terms and signaled she would back him well before his confirmation hearing. 

Manchin says he is waiting for a second meeting with Kavanaugh before making up his mind on how to vote, and Heitkamp and Donnelly say they are still making up their minds.

“I closely watched Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee which answered some questions and also raised others. I continue to review his available record, will review the additional documents that continue to be released, and talk with North Dakotans as I continue my evaluation process,” Heitkamp said in a statement. 

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan MORE (D-Mont.), who also faces an election in a state Trump carried by double digits, said he’s waiting to meet with Kavanaugh in person before announcing his vote. 

“We haven’t got our in-person yet. We’re still trying to get that scheduled and I’ll make a decision after that,” Tester said Thursday. 

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri MORE (D-Mo.) stayed in Washington an extra day after the Senate adjourned on Wednesday evening so she could review “committee confidential” documents related to Kavanaugh that haven’t been made public. 

She hasn’t made up her mind yet, either. 

Republicans control 51 Senate seats and would have enough votes to confirm Kavanaugh without Democratic support as long as no more than one member of their conference defects. Vice President Pence would break a 50-50 tie. 

Centrist Democrats have shared the frustrations voiced by liberal colleagues on the committee who have complained that much of Kavanaugh’s record serving in the White House counsel’s office under former President George W. Bush was unfairly shielded from public scrutiny. 

Hundreds of thousands of pages of records were labeled committee confidential before the hearing began, and further documents from his time as White House staff secretary haven’t been released to the panel at all.

But aside from the squabbling over procedural questions, a senior Democratic aide acknowledged last week that Democrats on the panel “didn’t lay a glove” on Kavanaugh during the hearings. 

Like Gorsuch before him, Kavanaugh declined to reveal his views on hot-button topics such as abortion rights, acknowledging only that Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case, is an “important precedent.” 

Asked Thursday what was the biggest hit Democrats managed to score on Kavanaugh at the hearing, Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats draw red lines in spending fight What Republicans should demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling Climate hawks pressure Biden to replace Fed chair MORE (D-R.I.), a member of the panel who was one of the most effective interrogators, shrugged and declined to answer.

He focused instead on the committee’s process, slamming it as “an unprecedented set of demolitions of the rules and traditions of the Senate.”

“We had real problems getting real answers to questions and we were denied traditionally available documents,” he said.