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Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight

Republican and Democratic senators say they’re ready to move on from the fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump says GOP wouldn't have won on Kavanaugh without speech mocking Ford Former campaign aide to New Jersey governor says she was sexually assaulted by his ex-staffer Flake: Congress should not continue Kavanaugh investigations MORE’s confirmation, but lingering tensions from one of the bitterest fights in recent Senate history are proving difficult to soothe.

Senate Republicans have seized on Kavanaugh to energize their base ahead of the midterm elections, blaming a liberal “mob” for going too far in the Supreme Court battle. 

They’ve said GOP senators were “harassed” and “under assault” during the fight, pointing to incidents at airports, a Washington, D.C., restaurant and the Senate buildings themselves to argue that Democrats are out of control and should not be given power.

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“This body … will not let unhinged tactics replace reasoned judgement. We will not let mob behavior drown out all the Americans who want to legitimately participate in the policymaking process, on all sides,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP Senate candidate: Kavanaugh 'debacle' 'hugely motivating' to Missouri voters Trump praises McConnell: He ‘stared down the angry left-wing mob’ to get Kavanaugh confirmed Murkowski not worried about a Palin challenge MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday from the Senate floor. “And the Senate, I assure you, will not be intimidated.” 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump defends 0B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia Florida politics play into disaster relief debate O’Rourke faces pivotal point in Texas battle with Cruz MORE (R-Texas), McConnell’s No. 2 and a member of the Judiciary Committee, added that during the November midterm election voters will get to pick between “mob rule” or voting for the “rule of law.” 

The GOP has seized on remarks from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton on if Bill should’ve resigned over Lewinsky scandal: ‘Absolutely not’ Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida Trump adds campaign stops for Senate candidates in Montana, Arizona, Nevada MORE and former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderNoisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Georgia gubernatorial candidate calls Holder comments on kicking Republicans ‘hyperbole’ Sanders weighs in on aggressiveness of Democratic protests: 'I am not a great fan of being rude or disrupting activities' MORE to bolster their case. 

Clinton said that “civility” could start again once Democrats win back the House or Senate, while Holder, playing off former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaNoisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? The Kavanaugh debate was destructive tribalism on steroids: Here’s how we can stop it from happening again Sanders weighs in on aggressiveness of Democratic protests: 'I am not a great fan of being rude or disrupting activities' MORE’s “when they go low, we go high" mantra, said that when Republicans “go low, we kick ‘em.” 

The GOP tactics have infuriated Democrats. 

“For them to talk about mob rule — what in the hell was that all about?” said Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin opposes Saudi arms sale over missing journalist Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight MORE (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat and a member of the Judiciary Committee. 

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoKavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight Chris Cuomo: Presumption of innocence didn't apply to Kavanaugh because it wasn't a court case Lindsey Graham hits Dem senator: 'The Hirono standard is horrific' MORE (D-Hawaii), another member of the panel, added that McConnell’s rhetoric was “dangerously” underestimating the frustration in the country. 

“It is the richest of ironies that the majority leader has taken to calling those opposed to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh a mob when several nights a month the president whips his supporters into a frenzy to attack his target of choice,” Hirono said. 

Hirono appeared to be referencing a rally in Iowa that Trump held this week, where he appeared to encourage his supporters after they began chanting “lock her up” about Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTop Judiciary Dems call for unredacted 'zero tolerance' memo MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace: I told Jeb Bush 'he should have punched' Trump 'in the face' Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Feinstein has come under fire from Trump and other Republicans who accuse her or her staff of leaking information about Christine Blasey Ford, who in a confidential letter accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when the two were teenagers.

Ford’s name became public after the leak and she eventually testified at a dramatic hearing, nearly torpedoing Kavanaugh’s nomination. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Kavanaugh debate was destructive tribalism on steroids: Here’s how we can stop it from happening again Conservative group launches ad campaign thanking Collins after Kavanaugh vote Democrats must end mob rule MORE (R-Maine), who cast a pivotal vote for Kavanaugh, in her own floor speech last week said she did not believe Feinstein had leaked the information. 

And Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyClinton's security clearance withdrawn at her request Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight Senate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees MORE (R-Iowa) and Feinstein have signaled a willingness to move on in public.

The two touted their long personal friendship this week, which was struck from decades of Senate service together. 

“I think she is of the same design I am, that we ought to work together. ... I have no animosity and I’m just going to just assume that I’m going to look to the future, forget about the past,” Grassley said. 

Feinstein, asked about her personal relationship with Grassley after Kavanaugh, said it was “fine.” 

The committee had a relatively subdued committee meeting on Thursday, where they advanced several judicial nominations and legislation to make lynching a federal crime. 

The bitterness over judicial nominations did not start with Kavanaugh.  

Democrats were furious when Republicans held up former President Obama’s nomination of Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandEnding the judicial Wheel of Fortune: The need for 18-year Supreme Court terms Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight How do we end the cycle of confirmation wars? MORE in 2016. 

In 2013, Democrats nixed the 60-vote filibuster for most nominations. Republicans got rid of the higher-vote threshold for Supreme Court picks last year to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the court. 

Democrats were angered by Trump’s remarks about Feinstein. 

Durbin called Trump’s rhetoric “disgusting.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said the remarks were “so ludicrous and false that they’re not worth even addressing.” 

Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are still weighing whether to launch a formal investigation into how Ford’s letter was leaked to the public. 

McConnell has indicated that he believes there will be an investigation and members of the Judiciary Committee, including Cornyn and GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBrunson release spotlights the rot in Turkish politics and judiciary Saudi Arabia, Turkey to form joint investigation into Khashoggi disappearance Democrats must end mob rule MORE, back digging into the matter. 

But Grassley hasn’t taken a position on holding an investigation and told reporters that he wants to have a meeting with committee members before he makes a decision. 

Asked if the Senate Judiciary Committee could investigate the leaking of Ford’s letter without it becoming partisan, Durbin just started laughing. 

“Is that a real question?” he asked. 

Republicans on the committee brushed off questions about if the panel would be able to move past Kavanaugh. 

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisKavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight GOP fractured over filling Supreme Court vacancies in 2020 GOP senators call for Kavanaugh FBI findings to be made public MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the committee, said he thought there wasn’t a risk that lingering animosity from the Supreme Court fight would bleed over into members' personal relationships. 

He said shortly before the final votes on Kavanaugh he was speaking with Feinstein on the floor about immigration reform and talking with Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDem senators urge Pompeo to reverse visa policy on diplomats' same-sex partners 15 Saudis identified in disappearance of Washington Post columnist The Senate needs to cool it MORE (D-Del.) about criminal justice reform. 

“It’s interesting with some of the members on the committee, the conservations we were having on the floor before the cloture vote, final confirmation. ... I think at least in that way we’ve compartmentalized it,” Tillis said. 

Cornyn argued the panel didn’t have any other option except to keep working together. 

“What's our choice?” he asked. “I mean, we can't get a divorce.”