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Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0

Senate Democrats say they want to avoid a replay of the bitter fighting that characterized Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Why we need Section 230 more than ever 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate MORE’s 2018 Senate confirmation hearings, which centrist former  Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Former McCaskill aides launch PAC seeking to thwart Hawley Ex-GOP senator blasts Hawley's challenge to electoral vote count as 'highly destructive attack' MORE (D-Mo.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty MORE (D-Ind.) thought cost them their reelection bids that year.

Several Democratic senators say they want to avoid getting drawn into a partisan food fight over President TrumpDonald TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports MORE’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett that could alienate voters in Republican-leaning Senate battlegrounds, such as Georgia, Iowa, Montana and North Carolina.

Suburban college-educated women are a key demographic in the battle for the Senate, and Democratic senators acknowledge they need to be careful of getting too aggressive with Barrett, a mother of seven.

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“I’m sick and tired of losing,” said one Democratic senator. “We had a Kavanaugh 1.0, which has informed people’s approach this time.”

“We’re not going to go down that road again. People know what happened to Joe Donnelly, they know what happened to Claire McCaskill and they know what happened to [former Sen.] Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHarrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment Biden to tap Vilsack for Agriculture secretary: reports OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA guidance may exempt some water polluters from Supreme Court permit mandate | Vilsack's stock rises with Team Biden | Arctic wildfires linked to warming temperatures: NOAA MORE,” the senator said, referring to the North Dakota Democrat who lost her reelection bid weeks after Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag Josh Hawley has a new publisher — that's good news This week: Tensions running high in Trump's final days MORE (W.Va.), the only Democrat who voted to confirm Kavanaugh in 2018 and went on to win reelection that year in a state that Trump carried by 42 points in 2016, said he hopes the Senate avoids a Kavanaugh-type redux.

“I hope they do. I would hope all my colleagues ... have a civil, have a really professional, decent, honorable, respectable hearing, that’s all. And get to the points,” he said.

Manchin called the bruising Kavanaugh confirmation fight, which erupted into controversy after allegations from a woman that the nominee sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school, a “fiasco.”

“That vote cost, I think, a few of our colleagues their jobs,” he said.

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Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency MORE (D-Mont.), who narrowly survived his 2018 reelection race in a state Trump carried by 20 points in 2016, said his numbers dipped during the height of the battle over Kavanaugh.

Asked whether Democrats need to be more disciplined in their approach to Barrett, Tester said, “Yeah, I do.”

“I do think there needs to be a plan going into [this] on what you want to accomplish,” he said.

He thinks Senate Democrats need to work on sharing power so that not just a few voices dominate the debate.

“They do need to do a better job of distributing power, including Schumer,” he said, referring to Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerNew York court worker arrested, accused of threats related to inauguration Schumer: Trump should not be eligible to run for office again McConnnell, McCarthy accept Biden invitation to pre-inauguration church service MORE (D-N.Y.). “And this is going to be an opportunity for them to do that because this is a very important thing.”

So far, liberal Democrats have taken the strongest stances against Barrett’s nomination.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocratic senator raises concerns about inauguration security Senate Democrats urge Google to improve ad policies to combat election disinformation Senate gears up for battle over Barr's new special counsel MORE (D-Hawaii) made headlines over the weekend by saying they wouldn’t meet with Barrett, while Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyFive centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote David Sirota: Democrats gave away leverage in forcing vote on ,000 checks Sanders to slow down NDAA veto override in bid to get vote on K checks proposal MORE (D-Mass.) made headlines before her nomination by saying Democrats should pack the court if the GOP Senate confirmed a nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader Ginsburg, George Floyd among options for 'Remember the Titans' school's new name Bipartisan anger builds over police failure at Capitol Lindsey Graham praises Merrick Garland as 'sound choice' to serve as attorney general MORE before the elections. Barrett has been nominated to fill Ginsburg’s seat.

Tester predicts this Supreme Court confirmation fight will play out differently.

“This is not going to play out like Kavanaugh, I don’t think, at all,” he said.

Senate Republicans accused Democrats of playing dirty tricks after Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinJustice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges Senate Democrats call on Biden to immediately invoke Defense Production Act Barrett hears climate case against her father's ex-employer Shell MORE (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and her staff waited for weeks to report a letter to the FBI detailing 36-year-old sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

The delayed disclosure forced the Judiciary Committee to hastily convene a second round of confirmation hearings and prompted the FBI to conduct a hurried investigation of the matter, which failed to corroborate the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate presses Biden's pick for secretary of State on Iran, China, Russia and Yemen GOP senator questions constitutionality of an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office Graham pushes Schumer for vote to dismiss impeachment article MORE (R-S.C.), who now serves as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, angrily accused Democrats during Kavanaugh’s second round of hearings of trying to “destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020.” 

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Graham now says the Democrats’ treatment of Kavanaugh two years ago justifies Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump has talked to associates about forming new political party: report McConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment MORE’s (R-Ky.) decision this month to speed Barrett through the confirmation process after he held the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia open for months in 2016.  

Asked if Democrats learned any lessons from the handling of Kavanaugh’s nomination or whether the partisan temperature should be lowered this time around, Feinstein said Democrats would listen carefully and respectfully to the nominee’s testimony.

“One of the things about the members of the committee is we do listen to people,” she said. “You’ll see a very listening, careful body. Both Republican and Democrat.”

Republicans have signaled they will go on the offensive if Barrett’s religious beliefs become a target of attack, and Democrats are concerned about that prospect both inside and outside the Senate.

Feinstein came under criticism in 2017 after telling Barrett during a confirmation hearing on her appointment to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that “the dogma lives loudly within you.”

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyBiden to send Congress immigration reform bill after being sworn in Biden to nix border wall, 'Muslim ban' on first day in office Biden DHS, Intel picks stress need to prioritize cybersecurity after SolarWinds hack MORE (R-Mo.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Schumer on Saturday urging Democrats to “reject” what he called “egregious personal attacks on Judge Barrett’s Christian faith.” 

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While Democrats won back the House in 2018, the party saw the GOP grow its Senate majority after McCaskill, Donnelly, Heitkamp and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonGeorgia Senate races shatter spending records Georgia voters flood polls ahead of crucial Senate contests The Hill's Morning Report - Fearing defeat, Trump claims 'illegal' ballots MORE (D-Fla.) lost that year. While Heitkamp started to fall behind in the polls before Kavanaugh’s bruising confirmation fight, other Democrats saw their numbers start to drop right around the time the Senate Judiciary Committee melted down in partisan acrimony.

This year Democrats have a good opportunity to flip the Senate, but that means ousting GOP incumbents in states Trump won in 2016.

Senate Republican strategists feel confident a bitter fight over Barrett will help vulnerable incumbent Sens. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyCindy McCain on possible GOP censure: 'I think I'm going to make T-shirts' Arizona state GOP moves to censure Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed MORE (Ariz.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP senator questions constitutionality of an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Military survivors of child sex abuse deserve more MORE (Iowa), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesYellen champions big spending at confirmation hearing McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time McConnell says he's undecided on whether to vote to convict Trump MORE (Mont.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDemocrats see Georgia as model for success across South McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 MORE (N.C.).

They conceded it could hurt Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs denounce Capitol attack | Contractors halt donations after siege | 'QAnon Shaman' at Capitol is Navy vet Lobbying world Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Memo: Biden prepares for sea of challenges Biden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party MORE (Maine), who are running in states then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene referred to Parkland school shooting as 'false flag' event on Facebook Senators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS CNN poll: Melania Trump leaving office as least popular first lady ever MORE won four years ago, but Republicans, who control 53 seats, can afford losing two and are projected to defeat Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama.

While recent polling shows a majority of voters think the Senate should wait until after Election Day before moving forward with the confirmation process, opinion is starkly divided along party lines.

A New York Times-Siena College poll published Sunday showed that 56 percent of voters nationwide think the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election should fill the vacancy created by Ginsburg’s death, while 41 percent think the choice rightly belongs to Trump.

Polling commissioned by three conservative groups — America First Policies, Heritage Action for America and Judicial Crisis Network — of voters in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin shows that Republican voters strongly favor a vote on Barrett before Election Day.