Democrats divided over response to Kavanaugh pick
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has amplified divisions in the Democratic Party, spurring competing views about how, or even whether, to attack Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Democrats trying to defeat Kavanaugh were still searching for a potent line of attack Thursday. Some have focused on portraying him as a threat to take away health-care protections and abortion rights. Others have emphasized concerns about his views on presidential power and how he might apply them to Trump.
So far, their arguments have shown no explicit signs of winning over the two Republican senators seen as most likely to break ranks and oppose Kavanaugh: Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Centrist Democrats trying to survive re-election in states Trump won, meanwhile, have said little about Kavanaugh, seeking to avoid the wrath of the president’s loyal supporters or a backlash from liberals bent on defeating Kavanaugh’s nomination. “If you’re going to ask me questions about the Supreme Court nominee, I have absolutely nothing to say,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. told a reporter Thursday. “Nothing to say about the Supreme Court nominee,” she interjected after a follow-up question. She repeated herself a third time.
Democratic leaders in the Senate are laboring to demonstrate to activists that they are doing everything they can to fight the nomination, though there is nothing they can do to stop him without Republican help.
“Some of the people that have come up to me at parades have said, ‘Shut ‘em down, do this, do that,’ and it reflects a limited understanding of how the Senate operates,” Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said this week.
The battles underscore the chaotic state of a Democratic Party with no clear leader and plenty of ambitious politicians with contrasting ideologies. The party is grappling with dual pressures to win control of the Senate in the midterms, which requires bolstering vulnerable centrists, and to position itself for the 2020 presidential race, which entails firing up the party’s base.
As Kavanaugh spent Thursday on Capitol Hill meeting separately with four Republican senators, Democrats staged another day of protests, this time focusing on abortion rights in a news conference.
“We are out to make sure that people understand that with Judge Kavanaugh on the bench, five men will most likely vote to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
She was joined by a group of female Democratic senators and activists.
A day earlier, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., led a news conference at which he warned that Kavanaugh could undermine health-care protections for Americans. Republicans have rejected their arguments.