Republicans seize on Kavanaugh confirmation going into midterms

Republicans seize on Kavanaugh confirmation going into midterms
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Republicans on Sunday celebrated the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the face of staunch liberal opposition, hailing it as a watershed moment that will propel their party into the midterms.

"I think so," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey Senate Republican: Criminal justice reform needs more GOP support GOP tensions running high on criminal justice bill Trump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference MORE (R-Ky.) said when asked by "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace whether Kavanaugh's confirmation was the senator's proudest accomplishment.

"I'm happy because the effort to humiliate and railroad a man I’ve known for 20 years … failed," Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress digs in for prolonged Saudi battle Focus on Yemen, not the Saudi crown prince GOP tensions running high on criminal justice bill MORE (R-S.C.) added on "Fox News Sunday."

"This was character assassination," he continued. "This was wanting power too much, and to the extent that I came to the aid of this good man and helped defeat this debacle, I’m happy as a clam."

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Kavanaugh was confirmed on Saturday in a 50-48 vote, with one Republican senator voting “present” and another unable to attend. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSchumer to Trump: Future infrastructure bill must combat climate change Overnight Energy: Senate confirms controversial energy pick | EPA plans rollback of Obama coal emissions rule | GOP donor gave Pruitt K for legal defense Senate confirms Trump’s controversial energy pick MORE (D-W.Va.), who faces a stiff reelection challenge next month, was the lone Democrat to break ranks and vote for the judge.

Kavanaugh joined Neil Gorsuch as the second Supreme Court justice to be confirmed under President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorsi sues Mueller for alleged leaks and illegal surveillance Comey: Trump 'certainly close' to being unindicted co-conspirator Trump pushes back on reports that Ayers was first pick for chief of staff MORE.

While Saturday’s vote marked an unmistakable victory for Republicans, polling and the raucous protests that surrounded the vote suggest it could come with consequences in next month’s midterm elections.

Hundreds of anti-Kavanaugh protesters descended upon the Capitol and Supreme Court in the days leading up to the vote after a five-day FBI investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against the judge. 

Kavanaugh’s nomination was imperiled after three women accused him of sexual misconduct. He and Christine Blasey Ford testified late last month over her claim that the nominee pinned her to a bed and groped her during a 1980s high school party. 

She said she was “100 percent” certain Kavanaugh assaulted her, while the judge said he was “100 percent” confident he did not, and blasted the allegation as part of an “orchestrated political hit” carried out by Democrats.

The allegations, paired with speculation over how a more conservative court might treat Roe v. Wade, placed a handful of lawmakers including Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House Judd Gregg: The last woman standing MORE (R-Maine) at the center of the fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Collins said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that while she found Ford's testimony compelling and believes she was a victim of an assault, she does not believe Kavanaugh was the man responsible.

Collins added that her vote to confirm Kavanaugh "ranks right up there" among the toughest decisions she's made in her career.

"I've heard from people that I haven't heard from in many, many decades. And I heard from a lot of protesters, as well as people who support my decision," Collins said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

The Maine Republican also rejected arguments that Kavanaugh lacked the judicial temperament to sit on the Supreme Court after his fiery attacks against Democrats during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I thought Judge Kavanaugh’s denial at the second hearing was very powerful," Collins said. "His anger and his anguish, I think is — are understandable given that he's been accused of being involved in gang rapes of women. I mean that is a devastating allegation. So I think it was understandable that he was reacting as a human being, as a father — as a father of two young girls."

Democrats were left licking their wounds on Sunday, but expressed hope that the chaos surrounding Kavanaugh's confirmation would lead to changes moving forward.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinGeorge H.W. Bush remembered at Kennedy Center Honors Democratic senator: US must maintain strategic relationship with Saudis and hold them accountable Trump confronts new Russia test with Ukraine crisis MORE (D-Md.) said on Fox that he'd like to see Trump work more closely with Democrats and Republicans to pick more "mainstream" Supreme Court nominees, rather than working off a list crafted with input from the Federalist Society. Kavanaugh, he argued, was not a "mainstream" pick.

Cardin added that he believes the newest addition to the Supreme Court will "underscore" issues like health care, women's rights and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation, which he said will be paramount to midterm voters.

Some Democrats have raised the possibility of further investigating the Kavanaugh allegations if they retake control of the House, or even considering impeachment for the judge.

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoRubio: ‘I don’t know’ if Nauert has 'detailed knowledge' to succeed as UN ambassador Overnight Defense: Nauert tapped for UN envoy | Trump teases changes to Joint Chiefs of Staff | Trump knocks Tillerson as 'dumb as a rock' | Scathing report details Air Force failures before Texas shooting Dem senator slams Nauert's lack of 'qualifications' for UN ambassador MORE (D-Hawaii), who stepped into the spotlight as one of Kavanaugh's fiercest critics in recent weeks, declined to rule out the possibility on Sunday.

"I'm much more focused on the here and now, which is that we have an election coming up," Hirono said on CNN.

"And I said to the women who are justifiably angry, but determined, and I said they should be just focused like a laser beam on the elections, because they have connected the dots," she continued. "They know that the senators who are making these confirmation decisions are the people who were elected by their voters. And so, as voters, they have a role to play.”

Republicans on Sunday expressed confidence, however, that their voters would be equally refocused on the stakes in November thanks to the protests surrounding Kavanaugh's confirmation.

“Ironically, the behavior of first Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and then the overreach of the protesters at the Capitol have actually energized the Republican base particularly in the red states where we're trying to pick up seats out across America,” McConnell said on CBS.

“So I want to thank the other side for the tactics that have allowed us to kind of energize and get involved our own voters,” he added.

While recent polling shows Democrats with a sizable edge on the generic congressional ballot, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel downplayed the suggestion that GOP House candidates would pay the price for their Senate colleagues pushing Kavanaugh through.

"It’s helping across the board in House and Senate races," McDaniel said on "Fox News Sunday."

"Our job is to turn out our base," she continued. "Our base is completely energized right now, and the Kavanaugh hearing has just highlighted how important this election is for them."