Shaheen, Hassan confirm opposition to Kavanaugh
NASHUA – Going as far as to allege federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a “dangerous” Supreme Court nominee who is “deliberately concealing” his record, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., on Monday announced her formal opposition to President Donald Trump’s high court pick.
Also Monday, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., alleged Kavanaugh “promotes a partisan right-wing ideology at odds with the will of the American people” in confirming she will vote against the nominee.
“While much of Judge Kavanaugh’s record remains a mystery, what we do know is extremely troubling and dangerously out of step with the American people, particularly on critical issues including executive power, abortion rights and pre-existing conditions,” Shaheen said. “The president remains the focus of a sprawling criminal probe and has nominated a judge to the Supreme Court with an expansive view of executive power – no one, not even the president, is above the law and no defendant should be permitted to choose his or her own judge.”
The mathematic march toward Kavanaugh’s confirmation at month’s end remains the same in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 edge. Senate Democrats don’t have the votes to block Kavanaugh, but that didn’t stop them from putting up a rowdy, leave-nothing-on-the-table fight during four days of Senate confirmation hearings last week, marking a new stage in the party’s resistance to Trump.
From the moment that the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman gaveled in the first session last week, 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.
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 (ICE). The second-ranking Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, bemoaned the “mob rule” at the hearings.
Democrats’ only real chance to stop Kavanaugh is if they can convince Republican U.S. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine or Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to join them in blocking the nominee. Neither Collins, nor Murkowski, have taken a formal position on Kavanaugh at this point.
Democratic senators running for re-election in states where Trump is popular have the most to lose from the party’s Supreme Court fight.
U.S. 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.
Yet the court fight might be unhelpful as some Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia, try to appeal to the moderate Republicans and independents they need to win over.
“It’s probably the last thing that Democrats running for re-election in red states want to be talking about,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former top aide to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
This does not seem to be a concern for the New Hampshire senators, however, neither of whom faces re-election this year.
“Judge Kavanaugh’s past rulings on abortion demonstrate that he is willing to infringe on a woman’s constitutionally-protected right to make her own reproductive decisions, and his failure to answer questions about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s protections for pre-existing conditions puts the health and well-being of millions of Americans at risk,” Shaheen said. “After careful consideration of his record and reviewing the limited documents made available to the U.S. Senate, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot support Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
“What the totality of this record makes abundantly clear is that on issue after issue, Judge Kavanaugh has promoted a judicial philosophy that diminishes the rights of individuals, particularly women and people of color; puts corporations before people; and promotes a partisan right-wing ideology at odds with the will of the American people,” Hassan added.
Both New Hampshire senators also opposed the nomination of now Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.