Win or lose, con­fir­ma­tion fight de­fines Dems

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OBITUARIES - By Lisa Mas­caro

WASH­ING­TON — Democrats don’t have the votes to block Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh. But that didn’t stop them from putting up a rowdy, leave-nothin­gon-the-ta­ble fight dur­ing four days of Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings that marked a new stage in the party’s re­sis­tance to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

From the mo­ment that the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee chair­man gaveled in the first ses­sion, the pro­ceed­ings were tu­mul­tuous, dis­rupted first by Demo­cratic sen­a­tors ob­ject­ing to the rules and then by pro­test­ers shout­ing “Sham pres­i­dent, sham vote” and other chants.

Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, an 84-year-old Iowa Repub­li­can, later said it was like noth­ing he had ever ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing 15 Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings.

The bed­lam is un­likely to change any votes in the Se­nate. The math­e­matic march to­ward Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion at month’s end re­mains the same in the Se­nate, where Repub­li­cans hold a51-49 edge. Still, the bat­tle may have changed the Democrats, who are be­ing trans­formed by a new gen­er­a­tion of politi­cians spoil­ing for a fight with Trump, even if it cre­ates po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges for some Demo­cratic can­di­dates in the Novem­ber elec­tion.

“Some­times you just have to make a stand,” said Brian Fallon, a for­mer top ad­viser to Hil­lary Clin­ton and the Se­nate’s top Demo­crat, New York’s Chuck Schumer. Fallon’s or­ga­ni­za­tion, De­mand Jus­tice, is lead­ing the op­po­si­tion to Ka­vanaugh.

Fallon com­pared the de­ci­sion on the court nom­i­nee to big votes of the past such as the Iraq War au­tho­riza­tion that end up defin­ing law­mak­ers’ ca­reers.

“This vote is not go­ing to age well,” Fallon said. He is hold­ing out hope that not only will Democrats re­ject Ka­vanaugh, but that two piv­otal Repub­li­cans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Su­san Collins of Maine, will join in to help stop the con­fir­ma­tion.

“Democrats should fight like hell,” he said, “even if it’s not go­ing to sway Su­san Collins.”

Repub­li­cans have been ea­ger to cap­i­tal­ize on the po­lit­i­cal “circus,” as they called the hear­ing, par­tic­u­larly as po­ten­tial 2020 pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls Sens. Ka­mala Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia and Cory Booker of New Jersey took turns ag­gres­sively ques­tion­ing Ka­vanaugh in what many saw as a pre­lude to pres­i­den­tial pri­mary cam­paigns.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., por­trayed the Demo­cratic Party as dom­i­nated by “un­hinged” pro­test­ers and aligned with lib­er­als call­ing to abol­ish U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment. The sec­on­drank­ing Repub­li­can, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, be­moaned the “mob rule” at the hear­ings.

Trump took on his po­ten­tial 2020 ri­vals di­rectly. Dur­ing cam­paign stops for GOP can­di­dates chal­leng­ing Se­nate Democrats this fall in Mon­tana and North Dakota, states where Trump re­mains pop­u­lar, he ridiculed Democrats as “mak­ing fools out of them­selves.”

“The way they’re scream­ing and shout­ing, it’s a dis­grace to our coun­try ac­tu­ally,” Trump said Fri­day dur­ing a fundraiser in Fargo, North Dakota, for the GOP op­po­nent to Demo­cratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. “I’ll be run­ning against them and I look so for­ward to it.”

With the midterms less than two months away, Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion car­ries po­lit­i­cal risks for both par­ties as they po­ten­tially alien­ate the large swath of in­de­pen­dent vot­ers who have big say in elec­tions.

“In­de­pen­dents are look­ing for things to work,” said David Win­ston, a Repub­li­can poll­ster. But he said the showy, dis­rup­tive dis­play at the Ka­vanaugh hear­ing “re­in­forces their con­cerns of peo­ple not fo­cus­ing on the chal­lenges the coun­try faces.”

Demo­cratic sen­a­tors run­ning for re-elec­tion in states where Trump is pop­u­lar have the most to lose from the party’s Supreme Court fight.

Sens. Joe Don­nelly in In­di­ana or Claire McCaskill in Mis­souri may ben­e­fit from a court bat­tle that en­er­gizes the Demo­cratic base.

They need heavy voter turnout in metro In­di­anapo­lis and Kansas City, Demo­cratic strongholds, if they have any hope of car­ry­ing oth­er­wise red states that Trump won in 2016.

[J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., left, and Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, D-Calif., con­fer be­fore ques­tion­ing Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh on Thurs­day as he tes­ti­fies be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on the third day of his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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