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 McConnellTrump's election delay red herring On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project 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 GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war Graham leads Democratic challenger Harrison by 1 point in South Carolina: poll The Global Fragility Act provides the tools to address long-term impacts of COVID 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) ManchinOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project Trump signs major conservation bill into law Overnight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response 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 TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary 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 CollinsUnemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Obama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  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 CardinCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans 1,700 troops will support Trump 'Salute to America' celebrations July 4: Pentagon 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 (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 HironoOvernight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power 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."