the kavanaugh factor
November 26, 2018

In the weeks before the 2018 midterms and right afterward, Republicans were arguing that the contentious, narrow confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had finally awoken the Republican base, giving the party a shot of adrenaline before the election. And Republicans did unseat a handful of Democratic senators who had voted against Kavanaugh, in states like Missouri, North Dakota, and Indiana, while the lone Democrat who voted for Kavanaugh, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), won re-election. But after the election, Democrats are the ones citing the Kavanaugh fight as an electoral booster.

"Kavanaugh's nomination hurt the Republicans significantly in the election, harming them greatly in the House and doing very little damage in the Senate," said Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "That they have to claim victories they won in Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota shows how weak they really are."

Democrats took control of the House largely due to suburban voters, especially women, angered by the Kavanaugh confirmation and President Trump's actions more generally. Democrats also defeated Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who voted for Kavanaugh, flipped an Arizona seat where Democrat Kyrsten Sinema opposed Kavanaugh and Republican Martha McSally supported his confirmation, and held on to seats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Montana, all states Trump won in 2016 and campaigned in this year.

"Nationally, exit polls showed that more voters opposed Judge Kavanaugh's nomination than supported it, and that women were far more likely than men to be against his confirmation," notes Carl Hulse at The New York Times. And some Democrats argue that for Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), "the political repercussions of that high court push will be playing out for years to come as well." Peter Weber

August 22, 2018

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) had two very different meetings with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Tuesday.

Collins shared with reporters that Kavanaugh told her he believes Roe v. Wade is settled law. Schumer said when he asked Kavanaugh if he agreed that the case was "correctly decided," the conservative judge "would not say yes. That should send shivers down the spine of any American who believes in reproductive freedom for women." When it comes to the landmark abortion case, Kavanaugh has a "special obligation to make his views on this topic clear," he added, since President Trump said he would "only nominate someone who overturns Roe v. Wade." Conservative justices, Schumer continued, "have a habit of saying something is settled law during their confirmation and then overturning the minute they get on the bench."

Kavanaugh spent his Tuesday afternoon meeting privately with Schumer and four other Democratic senators, and Schumer said in addition to not commenting on Roe v. Wade, he wouldn't say if the Affordable Care Act is constitutional or whether a sitting president must comply with a subpoena. Catherine Garcia

August 21, 2018

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has kept mum on whether she'll vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But what Kavanaugh said during their meeting Tuesday could be the biggest indicator of which way she's headed.

After the nominee and the senator spent more than two hours meeting, Collins told reporters that Kavanaugh agrees with Chief Justice John Roberts, who once said the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade is settled law. Collins proceeded to call the meeting "an excellent session," per NPR. Kavanaugh's assurance could be a deciding factor for Collins, a pro-choice Republican thought to be a key swing vote in confirming President Trump's pick for the court.

Kavanaugh needs 50 Senate votes to earn a spot on the Supreme Court. But with just 51 Republicans in the Senate, Collins and fellow pro-choice Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) could spell the nominee's demise. Activists worried the conservative Kavanaugh would move to strike down abortion rights and lobbied Collins and Murkowski to oppose his confirmation alongside pro-choice Democrats.

But Kavanaugh has never publicly discussed or made legal decisions in abortion rights cases. Collins, who said she wouldn't support an anti-Roe nominee, promised a "thorough vetting" of Trump's pick in a July 9 statement, and on Tuesday she said she asked Kavanaugh if he considers Roe to be settled law. Kavanaugh responded that he agreed with Roberts, per Collins; in his 2005 confirmation, now-Chief Justice Roberts said Roe was "settled as a precedent of the court," per The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

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