Opponents of Brett Kavanaugh’s Nomination Turn Up the Heat on Red-State Democrats As Well As a Few So-Called ‘Moderate’ Republicans
Although Judge Brett Kavanaugh—President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy on the United States Supreme Court—will most likely be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, some opponents of the nomination are refusing to go down without a fight. And they are turning up the pressure on Democratic senators in red states as well as a few so-called “moderate” Republican senators they think might be persuaded to vote against Kavanaugh—namely, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.
Demand Justice, a Democratic group, has launched a six-figure ad campaign urging three Democratic senators—West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly—to vote against Kavanaugh. This year, Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly are all seeking reelection in states that Trump won in 2016, and all three of them broke ranks with fellow Democrats and voted to confirm Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
The ads targeting those Democratic senators, however, don’t use liberal/progressive arguments, but rather, quote some right-wingers who have been critical of Kavanaugh’s nomination.
In one of Demand Justice’s ads, the narrator declares, “Meet Brett Kavanaugh, son of a Washington lobbyist…..No wonder conservatives are upset.” And the ad quotes various people on the right saying negative things about him, including commentator Ben Shapiro, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano.
Napolitano, a libertarian who has been especially critical of the nomination, is heard saying, “This person is at the heart and soul of the DC establishment”—while Shapiro is heard saying, “I’ve got problems with Kavanaugh in general. He’s kind of the DC insider pick.”
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, two GOP senators who have become targets of Demand Justice’s ads are Collins and Murkowski—and the ads encourage them to protect abortion rights by voting against Kavanaugh.
In a Demand Justice ad aimed at Collins and Murkowski, the narrator asserts, “If Donald Trump has his way, the next Supreme Court pick will turn the Court against a woman’s constitutional right to safe, legal abortion.”
When Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate in 2017, the votes were largely along party lines. Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly were the only Democrats who voted for him, while all Republicans in the Senate—including Collins and Murkowski—were “yea” votes.
Nonetheless, Collins and Murkowski have been willing to break ranks from their party on occasion. In 2017, the American Health Care Act—the nightmarish Trumpcare bill that would have overturned the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, caused 23 million Americans to lose their health insurance—was defeated when Collins and Murkowski voted against it along with Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Collins and Murkowski—both mentioned as possible swing votes on Kavanaugh—are often described as “centrists,” which is misleading: both are conservative and right-of-center overall. But they seem moderate or centrist relative to the far-right ideologues who now dominate the Republican Party.
It’s important to remember that not one Republican senator voted against Gorsuch’s confirmation in 2017, while three Democrats voted for him. And while Collins and Murkowski will insist that they’re giving Kavanaugh a thorough vetting, they will most likely cave in and vote for him just as they voted for Gorsuch.
Clearly, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are determined to ram Kavanaugh’s confirmation through the Senate as quickly as possible—and they don’t want to wait until after the November midterms. Earlier this month, “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC obtained a secret recording in which Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California is heard explaining why he is opposed to impeaching Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the moment: he fears it could delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Nunes, at a GOP fundraiser, asserted that a vote in the Senate needs to happen before the midterms, which indicates that he’s fearful Democrats could regain control of the Senate in November.
If Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly all voted against Kavanaugh and Collins and Murkowski joined them in voting “nay”—which is an unlikely scenario but not out of the question—Kavanaugh would be in trouble. And that’s what Demand Justice are hoping for as they continue to turn up the pressure on senators who could be a swing vote in determining whether or not Kavanaugh becomes part of the Supreme Court.