Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw

An aggressive push by progressives to impeach Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Speculation swirls about next Supreme Court vacancy The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE is falling flat on Capitol Hill.

A coalition of House Democrats, 2020 presidential candidates and influential outside groups is trying to build momentum for ousting Kavanaugh in the aftermath of a new sexual misconduct allegation against him.

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Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyWarren's VP bid faces obstacle: Her state's Republican governor Democrats blast CDC report on minorities and COVID-19 Overnight Defense: Pentagon memo warns pandemic could go until summer 2021 | Watchdog finds Taliban violence is high despite US deal | Progressive Dems demand defense cuts MORE (D-Mass.) introduced a resolution Tuesday calling for an impeachment inquiry after The New York Times reported over the weekend that a former Yale University classmate alleged Kavanaugh exposed himself at a college party and that other students pushed Kavanaugh’s genitals into the hand of a female student.

“This is the reckoning, and gone are the days where we will be complicit and lackadaisical in the fact that this is an epidemic and survivors deserve healing and justice and everyone deserves due process,” Pressley said during an interview with CNN.

But Democratic leaders are signaling they want nothing to do with the impeachment chatter, which comes as they are already trying to juggle a simmering fight over the impeachment of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE within their own ranks and getting a stopgap funding bill through Congress by the end of next week.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerVA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment Democrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations Lawmakers introduce bill to invest 0 billion in science, tech research MORE (D-N.Y.) sidestepped when asked Tuesday about efforts to impeach Kavanaugh, noting that he had opposed Trump’s pick during last year’s months-long confirmation brawl.

“I’ve said this before: Very simply, I never thought Kavanaugh should be on the bench, and I still don’t today,” Schumer told reporters when asked if he thought the House should launch an impeachment investigation.

Asked by The Washington Post if she sees the House spending time on the new Kavanaugh allegations, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (D-Calif.) replied: "No." 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Democrats call on DOJ to investigate recent killings of unarmed black people  Gun control group rolls out House endorsements The House impeachment inquiry loses another round — and yes, that's still going on MORE (D-N.Y.) was equally cool to questions about impeaching Kavanaugh during a New York radio interview this week, effectively icing any action until next month when FBI Director Christopher Wray is scheduled to testify before the Judiciary panel.

“It’s too early to form a judgment one way or another. We’re going to start looking into this; we’re going to start with the FBI director coming in front of us next month. And we have our hands full with impeaching the president right now,” Nadler told WNYC.

The lukewarm reception puts Democratic leadership at odds with several of the party’s 2020 presidential candidates, who immediately called for impeachment or an investigation following the New York Times report.

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCOVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Gloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick MORE (D-Calif.), former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Here's how Biden can win over the minority vote and the Rust Belt MORE have each said they support impeaching Kavanaugh.

And they’re backed by a coalition of groups that are clamoring for House Democrats to take action, arguing Kavanaugh is “unfit” for the Supreme Court and that he lied during his Senate testimony last year.

“At this point, an impeachment inquiry in the House is the only appropriate way to conduct the fact-finding that Senate Republicans refused to conduct,” progressive groups Demand Justice, Women’s March and Center for Popular Democracy said in a joint statement.

The New York Times piece marked the latest point of conflict since Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court last year after Justice Anthony Kennedy stepped down in the summer of 2018.

Kavanaugh faced accusations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct ahead of his confirmation, prompting senators to take the unprecedented step of having Kavanaugh and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and delaying his nomination so the FBI could conduct a supplemental background investigation. 

Kavanaugh has denied any wrongdoing.

Democrats slammed the weeklong FBI investigation, arguing the agency was limited by guidelines established by the White House and Senate Republicans. But, in the end, Kavanaugh was narrowly confirmed last year with support from every Republican except Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas MORE (Alaska). Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December MORE (W.Va.) was the only Democrat to vote for him.

Some Democrats warned on Tuesday that it’s time to move on, noting that an impeachment effort would face a GOP buzz saw even if it got through the House.

“We should be focused on making sure this never, ever happens again. We need a functional background investigation process from the FBI,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day Congress eyes changes to small business pandemic aid Top Democrat to introduce bill to limit Trump's ability to fire IGs MORE (Conn.), a liberal Democratic senator. “I think it’s highly unlikely you’re going to get an impeachment vote through the United States Senate, so our best remedy may just be trying to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Asked if he would support impeachment, he responded by saying, “My feelings on Kavanaugh are pretty public. I just think we need to understand what’s realistic here.”

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Judiciary Committee calls for national safety guidelines amid liability hearing Democrats ask for investigation of DOJ decision to drop Flynn case McConnell under mounting GOP pressure to boost state aid MORE (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned that House Democrats pushing for impeachment were getting ahead of themselves.

“We seem to have a habit of wanting to get to the verdict before we’ve gathered the evidence. I don’t, as a former prosecutor, approve of that habit,” he said.

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Senate Republicans and others in the party have rushed to defend Kavanaugh after The New York Times story and tried to paint the impeachment calls as another sign that Democrats have shifted to the left ahead of 2020. Republicans view the courts as an issue that fires up their base and unifies the party.

“The Democrats lost ground after the Kavanaugh hearings. The fact that they’re reprosecuting things, and it’s following the same storyline as the hearings, is a loser for them,” said Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits Tillis campaign releases first general election TV ad emphasizing 'humble' roots MORE (R-N.C.), who is running for reelection in a top-tier Senate race.

Republicans previously made Kavanaugh a key issue during the 2018 Senate races, where several red- and purple-state senators who voted against him lost their reelection bids.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (D-Ill.), the Senate minority whip and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Republicans love hearing Democrats talk about impeachment and warned his party against an “unrealistic,” “knee-jerk reaction.”

“The notion of an impeachment, to me, is unrealistic and the fact that we would divert ourselves from other issues for that purpose makes no sense,” he said. “It’s become a knee-jerk reaction among many Democrats.”

Al Weaver contributed.