Democrats seek to turn Kavanaugh anger into votes

Democrats seek to turn Kavanaugh anger into votes
© Pool

Democrats on Sunday sought to pivot anger over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a Supreme Court justice away from that fight and toward the midterm elections.

Sens. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsIRS issues guidance aimed at limiting impact of tax on nonprofits' parking expenses Focus on Yemen, not the Saudi crown prince Overnight Defense: Washington bids farewell to George H.W. Bush | Senators offer resolution calling Saudi prince 'complicit' in Khashoggi killing | US Navy sails near Russia-claimed waters MORE (D-Del.), 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) and 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.) all pumped the brakes on desires among some lawmakers to further investigate sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh or possibly look into impeachment proceedings. 

Instead, they all set their sights on next month’s midterm elections, where anger among Democratic voters could propel the party into the majority in one or both chambers of Congress. 

"I'm much more focused on the here and now, which is that we have an election coming up," Hirono said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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"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.” 

The Senate confirmed Kavanaugh on Saturday afternoon in a 50-48 vote, with one GOP senator absent and another voting "present." Every Democrat opposed Kavanaugh's nomination except for 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.).

Democrats tried and failed to argue against Kavanaugh's nomination, gathering momentum in mass protests leading up to his eventual confirmation. Opponents argued they lacked adequate access to records from his work in the George W. Bush administration, that he was a threat to Roe v. Wade, that allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple women were disqualifying and that he lacked the judicial temperament to sit on the Supreme Court after he called those allegations part of an "orchestrated political hit" by Democrats.

Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed, but the party has retained optimism that the fight over Kavanaugh's nomination has energized its voters with roughly a month left until the midterms.

Hirono, who emerged as one of Kavanaugh's fiercest critics on the Senate Judiciary Committee, pointed to the groundswell of anti-Kavanaugh protests that took place after Christine Blasey Ford came forward to accuse the judge of sexual assault.

Ford testified before the Judiciary Committee late last month that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her and attempted to remove her clothes during a high school party in the 1980s.

Kavanaugh fiercely denied the allegations in his own testimony, lashing out at Democratic senators in the process.

A five-day supplementary FBI investigation into the allegations did not find corroborating evidence of the claim, according to the Republicans who eventually confirmed him.

“I think that it just means that there are a lot of people who are very, very much motivated by what is going on, because what happened with Judge Kavanaugh is, from the very beginning, this was not a fair process," Hirono said Sunday.

"There's a tremendous divisiveness in our country," she added. "But this is the kind of activism that occurs. And people make their own decisions. If they violate the law, then they have to account for that.”

Cardin said he believes Kavanaugh's confirmation will serve to underscore to Democratic voters what's at stake in November.

"I think it’s going to boil down to concerns about whether we’re going to protect the gains we’ve made in health care over pre-existing conditions, and we’re concerned about [special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's] investigation being interfered with," Cardin said on "Fox News Sunday."

"Constitutional rights of women, those issues are going to be on the ballot on the midterm and Judge Kavanaugh underscores those issues," he added.

While Democrats still hold a steady lead in generic congressional ballot polling, Kavanaugh’s confirmation — and the furor surrounding it — has also energized Republican voters and renewed the prospect of the GOP building on its Senate majority.

“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,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCornyn opens door to including criminal justice bill in government funding measure The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe Judd Gregg: The government goes geriatric MORE (R-Ky.) said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

“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.

McConnell rejected assertions that the narrow and heated vote over Kavanaugh indicated the Senate was "broken," but acknowledged it was a low point for the institution.

"I agree with [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFreedom Caucus calls on leadership to include wall funding, end to 'catch and release' in funding bill Push to pay congressional interns an hour gains traction with progressives House approves two-week spending measure to avert shutdown MORE [D-N.Y.] this has been a low point in the Senate. I have a different view about who caused the low point," McConnell said on "Fox News Sunday."

Coons, who sits on the Judiciary Committee and was at the center of brokering a deal to conduct a supplementary background check into the allegations, largely focused Sunday on how the country's institutions as a whole can move forward after becoming so fiercely divided.

"The challenge I’m focused on, Chuck, is looking forward at how it is we can heal the Senate after this bitter, and divisive and very partisan week, and how we look to restore or strengthen some of the legitimacy of the Supreme Court now that we have a seated justice who was confirmed by just 50 votes without allegations against him having really been cleared," Coons told anchor Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press."

He suggested Congress could act to change the culture and the laws in the country to better assist sexual assault survivors, scores of which came forward to share their stories after Ford did the same.

Coons called it "premature" to discuss impeaching Kavanaugh, and urged the Senate to "heal" its divisions.

"The Senate's role in our politics isn't just to reflect the country, but to help heal and lead the country," Coons said. "And that’s the course we should be on."