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 Kavanaugh Klobuchar offers tribute to her father, who died Wednesday Conservative justices split in ruling for immigrant fighting deportation Supreme Court weighs whether to limit issuance of exemptions to biofuel blending requirements MORE’s 2018 Senate confirmation hearings, which centrist former  Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run Demings asked about Senate run after sparring with Jordan on police funding MORE (D-Mo.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRepublicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives 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 TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers 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.


“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 HeitkampEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Bill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives MORE,” the senator said, referring to the North Dakota Democrat who lost her reelection bid weeks after Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinFormer OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans Jill Biden, Jennifer Garner go mask-free on vaccine-promoting West Virginia trip 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.


Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Democratic fissures start to show after Biden's first 100 days Americans for Prosperity launches campaign targeting six Democrats to oppose ending filibuster 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 SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill 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 HironoMore than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill Biden-McConnell cold war unlikely to end at White House If you want Julie Su at the DOL, don't point to her resume MORE (D-Hawaii) made headlines over the weekend by saying they wouldn’t meet with Barrett, while Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators ask airlines to offer cash refunds for unused flight credits Civilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide Senate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation 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 GinsburgJudge Judy on expanding Supreme Court: 'It's a dumb idea' Court watchers buzz about Breyer's possible retirement Five hot-button issues Biden didn't mention in his address to Congress 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 FeinsteinInfrastructure deal imperiled by differences on financing If you want Julie Su at the DOL, don't point to her resume Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap 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 GrahamGOP governors move to cut unemployment benefits as debate rages over effects Trump critics push new direction for GOP Graham warns about trying to 'drive' Trump from GOP: 'Half the people will leave' 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.” 


Graham now says the Democrats’ treatment of Kavanaugh two years ago justifies Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFormer OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden Lawmakers reach agreement on bipartisan Jan. 6 commission The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans 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 HawleyNYPD Asian Hate Crimes Task Force chief: Attacks are 'not new' More than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan 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.” 


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 NelsonChina fires back after NASA criticism of rocket debris reentry The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns NASA criticizes China after rocket debris lands in Indian Ocean 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 McSallyEx-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds Arizona state senator announces bid for Kirkpatrick's seat Democratic Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick says she won't seek reelection MORE (Ariz.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay Ernst Overnight Defense: Capitol security bill includes 1M to reimburse National Guard | Turner to lead House push against military sexual assault | Pentagon drops mask mandate GOP Rep. Turner to lead House push to address military sexual assault The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans MORE (Iowa), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesGOP senator urges Biden to withdraw support for COVID vaccine patent waiver Overnight Energy: 5 takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline attack | Colonial aims to 'substantially' restore pipeline operations by end of week | Three questions about Biden's conservation goals House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill MORE (Mont.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate hears from Biden's high-profile judicial nominees for first time Senate Democrats take aim at 'true lender' interest rate rule Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign MORE (N.C.).

They conceded it could hurt Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsFormer OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans Masks shed at White House; McConnell: 'Free at last' MORE (Maine), who are running in states then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats say it's up to GOP to stop Trump 2024 Hillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit More than half of eligible Latinos voted in 2020, setting record 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.