Kavanaugh fight puts Senate on edge of precipice

Kavanaugh fight puts Senate on edge of precipice
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An all-out brawl over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination is putting the Senate on the edge of a political precipice, with some lawmakers saying the fight may leave lasting damage.

The palpable tensions spilled onto the Senate floor Wednesday when Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad State and local officials beg Congress to send more election funds ahead of November Teacher's union puts million behind ad demanding funding for schools preparing to reopen MORE (R-Ky.) accused Democrats and the “far left” of “intimidation tactics” and “bullying” as they try to persuade GOP senators to oppose Kavanaugh, whose nomination could come up for a confirmation vote as soon as this week.

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“The far left tried to bully and intimidate members of this body, Republican United States senators. They’ve tried to bully and intimidate us,” McConnell said. “I want to make it clear to these people who are chasing my members around the hall here or harassing them at the airports or going to their homes, we’re not going to be intimidated by these people.”

Protesters have been staking out senators at various points around Capitol Hill -- at unrelated hearings, their offices and their cars.

The growing confrontations between protesters and Republican senators come after a video of two women confronting GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (Ariz.) at an elevator in the Senate Russell Office building went viral last week.

Flake acknowledged that the encounter influenced his decision to negotiate a one-week timeframe to allow the FBI to investigate the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. A woman approached him outside of a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Tuesday and thanked him for his decision, telling him that his “voice matters.”

Multiple senators, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools Clash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Trump says GOP 'flexible' on convention plans MORE (R-Iowa), have been spotted on Capitol Hill in the past week with police escorts as they go to and from votes. GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools MORE (Maine), a key swing vote, was seen leaving a Senate Aging Committee hearing escorted by police.

Talk of shutting down the hallway outside the hearing room, which would prevent reporters from posing questions directly to Collins, sparked a tense moment between reporters and Capitol Police.

Flake, Collins and GOP Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention Senators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops MORE (Alaska) are undecided and viewed as the crucial swing votes on the fight over Kavanaugh, who remains short of the simple majority needed to be confirmed. Republicans hold a 51-49 advantage in the Senate. 

Murkowski, speaking to reporters as she crossed the street outside the Capitol, characterized the media attention on her as “intense.”

But protests haven’t been limited to swing-vote senators. An anti-Kavanaugh protester repeatedly approached GOP Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerBipartisan senators seek funding for pork producers forced to euthanize livestock Top Georgia Republican endorses Doug Collins Senate bid Senators balance coronavirus action with risks to health MORE (Neb.), considered a solid “yes” vote, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Another protester pursued GOP Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad Chamber of Commerce endorses Cornyn for reelection George Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff MORE (Texas), a strong Kavanaugh backer, after a Senate Intelligence Committee meeting. The protester first asked Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGeorge Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff Energy companies cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline Trump nominee faces Senate hurdles to securing public lands post MORE (D-W.Va.), who is undecided on Kavanaugh, if he had seen the Texas Republican. The protester did not attempt to sway Manchin’s vote and instead chased Cornyn up several flights of stairs.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Tenn.), who has said he will vote for Kavanaugh, questioned whether some of the tactics are actually hurting the anti-Kavanaugh effort.

“There were two ladies who were pretty aggressive and a guy with a camera. So I talked with them for a fairly prolonged amount of time,” Corker told reporters, recounting his own experience. “Then it was evident that, you know, this wasn’t really about any of that, it was about … trying to create a, you know, a something.”

In addition to confrontations with protestors, senators are publicly tearing each other apart in a flurry of heated floor speeches and letters being released by leadership and rank-and-file lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

McConnell took the latest swing at his Democratic counterparts in a letter he sent to Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerA renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Trump may be DACA participants' best hope, but will Democrats play ball? MORE (D-N.Y.), turning down his request for an all-Senate briefing on the FBI’s report into the sexual assault allegations that have have thrown Kavanaugh’s nomination into chaos.

McConnell said Schumer’s request wasn’t allowed under the rules governing supplemental background investigations, but also that, “in all candor,” he believed Democrats were making a bad faith effort to delay the nomination.

“I believe it would be used to further delay this nomination -- a goal about which you and your Democratic colleagues have been abundantly clear and single-minded in pursuing,” McConnell said, adding that Democrats had a “gross mishandling of background material.”

McConnell’s rhetoric has been backed up by his caucus. GOP Sen. David Perdue (Ga.) lashed out at Democrats while standing next to a sign that read “please! Get up in the face of some congress people.” He called their behavior “outrageous and unacceptable” and said they have “gone one tick too far this time."

Cornyn, echoing Kavanaugh’s testimony last week before the Judiciary Committee, said Democrats are on a “search and destroy mission.”

Schumer, meanwhile, blasted McConnell in a floor speech Wednesday, saying his GOP counterpart was spreading “blatant falsehoods” after he blamed Democrats for trying to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.

“It is galling, appalling to hear day after day the majority leader get on his high horse about delay when he almost invented the word when it comes to judicial nominations,” Schumer said. 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinData shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Bottom line Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, hit back at both Trump and Republicans after the president appeared to mock Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s first accuser, during a rally in Mississippi on Tuesday night. Feinstein characterized Trump’s comments as “appalling” and “cruel.”

The Senate’s wounds over the Supreme Court go back years. 

Republicans are quick to argue that Democrats set the stage for the current fight when they nixed the filibuster for lower court judicial nominations in 2013. Democrats counter that it's “hypocritical” for Republicans to move so quickly on Kavanaugh when they kept a Supreme Court seat open for months under President Obama. 

McConnell downplayed the tensions, noting on Tuesday that the Senate has had some “rough” confirmation battles in the past. But senators are openly questioning how long it will take for the Senate to recover for the months-long, partisan, bitter brawl over Kavanaugh.

“I don't know how we get back,” Flake, who’s retiring in early January, said at a conference hosted by The Atlantic.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntState and local officials beg Congress to send more election funds ahead of November Clash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Senate Democrats urge Pompeo to ensure Americans living overseas can vote in November MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, added separately that "it's going to take the Senate a while to get over the conduct here of our colleagues."