Did Democrats Overreach On Their Strategy To Block Trump's SCOTUS Nominee?

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Posted: Aug 09, 2018 1:20 PM
Did Democrats Overreach On Their Strategy To Block Trump's SCOTUS Nominee?

While all eyes are on Ohio’s 12th congressional race and its special election, there is another battle brewing: the fight to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Senate Democrats have vowed to fight this nomination with every fiber of their being, though the ground game to do so has been remarkably lackluster—and progressives have noticed. We’ll get to that in a second, but for now—Democrats want all the documents relating to Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House. 

Judge Kavanaugh is from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. President Trump selected him upon news of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, which occurred at the end of July. The Bush documents are part of a delay strategy from Democrats. There are millions of pages to sift through, and not nearly enough staffers at the National Archives to turn over those pages within the timeframe Republicans want to confirm Kavanaugh. Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has requested some of the Bush documents, but not all of them (via WaPo):

Senators escalated a bitter dispute over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s documents — signaling a contentious confirmation fight ahead for the Supreme Court nominee even as senators on Tuesday successfully installed another appellate judge under President Trump. 

Infuriated with Republicans for requesting only a portion of Kavanaugh’s records from his tenure in the George W. Bush White House, Democratic senators sent a wide-ranging request to the National Archives demanding that his entire paper trail be provided to Congress. 

The letter, sent Tuesday, asks for all of Kavanaugh’s records from his time as an associate White House counsel under Bush, as well as his years as staff secretary. Kavanaugh, who was nominated to replace retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, served for two years in the counsel’s office and three years as staff secretary — a high-ranking position that controls the flow of documents in and out of the Oval Office. 

“The Republican majority has cast aside Democratic wishes for openness and transparency and has made a partisan request for only a small subset of Judge Kavanaugh’s records,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday morning. “It is such a break from precedent that you have to wonder: What are the Republicans hiding about Judge Kavanaugh’s record?”      

For Grassley, he’s not playing these games:

Grassley sent his request to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum after weeks of battle with Democrats over access to Kavanaugh's documents from his years in Bush's White House. Democrats have pushed for full access to the nominee's records while Republicans accuse them of trying to stall his confirmation.

Hitting Democrats for an attempted "fishing expedition" on Kavanaugh, Grassley singled out his Democratic counterpart on the committee, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for drawing a hard line in talks.

“Even when I suggested that we jointly request documents that both sides want while continuing to negotiate other categories, the Ranking Member [Feinstein] declined," Grassley said in a statement. "The minority rejected out of hand multiple accommodations that I’d offered to assist in targeting material they believe is relevant."

Democrats are seeking all emails Kavanaugh processed while serving as Bush’s staff secretary, in addition to his time in the Bush White House counsel’s office.

The calls from Democrats to release these documents are really all they have to block this nomination. Because of that, this fight is quickly becoming nasty. There appears to be zero defections from Republicans, who can’t afford to lose more than two votes. Those two would be Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who form the moderate wing of the Senate Republican caucus, with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who won’t be able to vote due to his battle with brain cancer. Delay and hope that the enthusiasm from the liberal hysteria over SCOTUS will winnow the GOP majority even further, possibly ending in a split chamber or worse—a Democratic takeover. Both scenarios are not outside the realm of possibility. Yet, here’s the catch. Republicans are not inclined to hear or entertain any of these demands since Democrats have already signaled hard core that they’re not going to vote for Kavanaugh. So, why respect their wishes for all the documents—screw them. Sens. Grassley and Tom Cotton (R-AR) plainly told Democrats that why are they frothing over these documents when they’ve already made up their minds. Sounds like a waste of time and thanks for playing.

Here’s what Grassley wrote in The Wall Street Journal:

…Mr. Schumer announced that he would oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination before he read the judge’s 307 written opinions and the many other opinions he joined. Certainly, it was before he reviewed the more than 17,000 pages Judge Kavanaugh provided to the committee in response to our bipartisan questionnaire and an estimated one million pages of documents the committee has requested from the Bush White House, where Judge Kavanaugh once worked.

It stands to reason that Senator Schumer wasn’t too concerned about Judge Kavanaugh’s record before he announced his opposition. Why is it so important to Senator Schumer now?

Democratic leaders are demanding access to every page from every email and every paper record from every one of the hundreds of White House aides who came and went during the entire eight years of President Bush’s time in office. This includes records that merely mention Judge Kavanaugh’s name and records he’s never seen. That is not reasonable. As I have made clear, I will not put taxpayers on the hook for a fishing expedition.

These documents include those from Judge Kavanaugh’s time as White House staff secretary, a post that manages the paper flow into and out of the Oval Office. They are both the least relevant documents to the nomination and the most sensitive to the executive branch, two considerations that have guided previous review processes. They’re extremely sensitive because they contain policy advice that went directly to President Bush, and the policy directives that came directly from him, on the full range of presidential responsibilities, including national security.

[…]

Their objective is to delay the confirmation process until after the midterm elections, with the hope of taking control of the Senate. My Democratic counterpart on the Judiciary Committee’s hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, put it quite succinctly: “Feinstein, other Senate Dems have plan on Brett Kavanaugh nomination: Stall.”

So recent complaints from Mr. Schumer and other Democrats about the scope of records requests ring hollow, especially coming from senators who have already declared their opposition to Judge Kavanaugh and initially refused even to meet with him.

Sen. Cotton took to Twitter to call out his Democratic colleagues (via Free Beacon):

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) called out Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) on Twitter Wednesday as she called for the release of documents showing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's "full record," reminding her she's already said she'll vote no on his confirmation.

[…]

Harris complained on Twitter Monday that the only documents from Kavanaugh's record received by the Senate "have been pre-approved by George W. Bush and Steve Bannon's lawyer – a man who also used to work for Kavanaugh. It's unacceptable. We need to see his real, full record."

Cotton retorted Wednesday that Harris didn't need any more documents, seeing as she's already made up her mind.

Democrats want to stall. Republicans respond, more or less, with two words. Suck. It. Yet, even the attempts at stalling isn’t good enough for die-hard Resist voters:

“If he gets appointed, we lose Roe. There is really no option,” Heidi Sieck, co-founder of #VoteProChoice, told ABC News during an interview at the Netroots Nations conference, referring to the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that protected abortion rights. Democrats and Republicans both argue that Trump's latest nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, would tilt the balance of the court very conservative, if he's confirmed.

“Folks serving in the senate for so long, where the senate is a dignified place, have a sense memory of how things should be,” Sieck went on. She said Democrats on Capitol Hill were out of touch with the grassroots and state-based activists. “They need to evolve quickly. They are using old language for a new time.”

Over and over, organizers like Sieck expressed frustration that Democratic leaders like Chuck Schumer had not publicly stated that all Democrats were expected to vote against the pending nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. While they acknowledged that Schumer likely cannot compel members of his caucus to vote one way or another (especially those in tough re-election campaigns), saying publicly that he hopes they all will oppose the confirmation would allow activists to get to work and add pressure.

Most progressives at the annual Netroots conference sounded particularly frustrated that so many Democrats, even some from bluer states that are not up for re-election, still wanted to review Kavanaugh’s record and wait for committee hearings, before deciding.

“It proves to me that folks still fundamentally do not understand what standing up to Donald Trump looks like in 2018,” Neil Sorka, spokesperson for Democracy for America, told ABC News. He threw up his hands and swore when talking about some Democratic senators playing “footsie” with the idea of voting in favor of the nomination. He called the pretense “galling.”

Just embrace it, Democrats. Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed. We’ll drag you by your hair kicking and screaming if we have to because this is getting ridiculous. You lost and we won. Elections have consequences. We’re unapologetic about blocking Merrick Garland—so just deal with it. You won’t be successful in blocking Kavanaugh. Nothing will come of this. Here’s to Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.