Senate

Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw

An aggressive push by progressives to impeach Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh 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.

{mosads}Rep. Ayanna Pressley (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 Trump within their own ranks and getting a stopgap funding bill through Congress by the end of next week.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (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 Pelosi (D-Calif.) replied: “No.” 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (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 Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg 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 Murkowski (Alaska). Sen. Joe Manchin (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 Murphy (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 Whitehouse (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.

{mossecondads}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 Tillis (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 Durbin (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.

Tags Ayanna Pressley Brett Kavanaugh Charles Schumer Chris Murphy Christopher Wray Dick Durbin Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Jerrold Nadler Joe Manchin Lisa Murkowski Nancy Pelosi Pete Buttigieg Sheldon Whitehouse Thom Tillis
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