Manchin meeting key test for Democrats on Supreme Court
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Democratic-allied advocacy groups are using the lightest of touches on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as he considers voting for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Manchin will meet with Kavanaugh at 2:30 p.m. Monday and could embolden other Democrats to announce their support for President Trump’s conservative nominee.
Manchin was one of only three Democrats that voted to confirm President Trump’s other Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, last April — along with Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.).
Democratic leaders are giving Manchin plenty of room to make a decision on Kavanaugh, even though his reelection is looking more and more like a sure thing.
They say that trying to twist his arm is likely to backfire because it could look to voters like Manchin is acceding to colleagues from more liberal states instead of doing what he thinks is best for West Virginia.
Earlier this month, Manchin said Schumer can “kiss my you-know-what” if he tries to squeeze him.
Manchin will be the first Democrat to meet with Kavanaugh, bucking the rest of the Democratic conference, which otherwise decided to wait until Republicans turn over key documents from Kavanaugh’s service in the Bush White House.
His decision appeared to pave the way for Donnelly, another Democrat running for reelection in a state Trump won by double digits, to announce that he too would meet with the nominee. He will sit down with Kavanaugh on Aug. 15.
This is frustrating to some liberal activists, however, who want the Senate leadership to threaten repercussions against any Democrat who strays in a battle that could shape the Supreme Court for years to come.
Heidi Heiss, the co-director of Credo Action, a progressive group, earlier this month said Schumer could punish Manchin if he votes for Kavanaugh by removing him from the Senate Democratic leadership team.
Republicans effectively control only 50 seats because Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is at home indefinitely fighting brain cancer. That means Democrats can block Kavanaugh if they keep their entire caucus unified and one Republican votes “no.”
Manchin so far has come under heavy pressure from the right.
West Virginia’s three Republican members of Congress and more than twenty state GOP officials signed a letter to Manchin urging him to back Kavanaugh.
The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative advocacy group, announced a new round of ads targeting Manchin, part of a $1.5 million ad buy.
Manchin has a record of supporting some of Trump’s most controversial nominees. He voted to confirm Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.
He hasn’t faced much backlash after breaking ranks to announce that he would meet Monday with Kavanaugh, whom Democratic colleagues warn is likely to try to overturn the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade from the high court.
A group of 50 protesters gathered outside his Marion County office Friday to urge him to vote against Kavanaugh.
Demand Justice, a liberal-leaning group opposing the nominee, has announced a $5 million lobbying campaign targeting two key Republican moderates, Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), along with several centrist Democrats, including Manchin.
But the group isn’t laying into Manchin the way some more liberal activists want. It’s taking a measured tone.
“Sen. Manchin is leading the fight for protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and he has said this will be a top issue in analyzing Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination,” said Brian Fallon, the group’s executive director.
“Kavanaugh has declined to uphold those protections in the past, and if he won’t commit to upholding them now, we’re hopeful that Sen. Manchin will vote against his nomination,” he said.
Another major Democratic group, Protect Our Care, which is dedicated to defending the Affordable Care Act, is only running ads against Collins and Murkowski.
A spokeswoman for the group, Amanda Harrington, said “a vote to confirm Kavanaugh is a vote to take away our health care.”
Protect Our Care announced Monday morning that constituents from West Virginia will meet with Manchin right after his session with Kavanaugh to discuss the threat his nomination poses to the Affordable Care Act.
Manchin stood with Democrats last year to oppose Republican legislation to repeal ObamaCare and has repeatedly stressed the importance of protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Meeting with constituents in Morgantown, W.Va., Friday, Manchin said “the biggest concern I have right now is the attack on health care,” according to The Dominion Post.
There’s a sense among some Democratic strategists that it would be tactically wise for Manchin and other red-state Democrats running in strongly pro-Trump states to vote for a Supreme Court nominee who’s likely to win confirmation anyway.
Collins and Murkowski have signaled they’re comfortable with what they know of the nominee, although they are still digging through his record.
Manchin, however, appears to be an increasingly safe bet for reelection.
A poll by Trafalgar Group, a Republican-leaning pollster, showed Manchin leading his opponent, Patrick Morrisey, by 10 points, 49.9 percent to 39.5 percent.
One Nation, a conservative advocacy group allied with Senate Republicans, recently announced it would cancel a major ad buy targeting Manchin.
However Nathan Brand, a spokesman for the Morrisey campaign, pointed Monday afternoon to a report that One Nation is returning to the air in West Virginia and plans to spend $2.4 million in August.
The Trafalgar survey showed Manchin could increase his lead over Morrisey to 19 points if he backs Kavanaugh.
“I vote more centrist than anybody in Washington,” he told constituents in Morgantown Friday, according to The Dominion Post.
Updated at 6:38 p.m.
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