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 steps up attack on Planned Parenthood  Smollett saga shows it's no mistake when media target conservatives Supreme Court clamps down on 'excessive fines' by states 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 McConnellKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Trump selects Kelly Craft for United Nations ambassador Union leader says Green New Deal would make infrastructure bill ‘absolutely impossible’ MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday from the Senate floor. “And the Senate, I assure you, will not be intimidated.” 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl Inviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Trump endorses Cornyn for reelection as O'Rourke mulls challenge 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 ClintonDem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 Left-leaning journalist: Sanders would be 'formidable candidate' against Trump Clinton hits EPA for approval of pesticide dump: ‘We need bees!’ MORE and former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderObama political arm to merge with Holder-run group Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Ocasio-Cortez to be first guest on new Desus and Mero show 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 ObamaFormer patients accuse ex-Fox News medical pundit of sexual exploitation Obama attends UNC-Duke basketball game Obama introduces himself as 'Michelle's husband' at leadership forum 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 DurbinKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Senate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run MORE (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat and a member of the Judiciary Committee. 

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union New battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks 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 FeinsteinKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Feinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape 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 CollinsGraham: 'Handful' of GOP senators will vote to block Trump's emergency declaration Dems set up Tuesday vote to block Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report — Emergency declaration to test GOP loyalty to Trump 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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin 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 GarlandGOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees New battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks Mitch McConnell has shown the nation his version of power grab 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 GrahamTrump says he'll '100 percent' veto measure blocking emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Dems tee up Tuesday vote against Trump's emergency declaration | GOP expects few defections | Trump doubles number of troops staying in Syria to 400 On The Money: Dems set Tuesday vote on Trump's emergency declaration | Most Republicans expected to back Trump | Senate plots to avoid fall shutdown drama | Powell heading before Congress 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 TillisThe Hill's Morning Report — Emergency declaration to test GOP loyalty to Trump Don’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times 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 CoonsTrump got in Dem’s face over abortion at private meeting: report Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Actor Chris Evans meets with Democratic senators before State of the Union 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.”