Judge Brett Kavanaugh met with two more Democratic senators Wednesday, seeking to break the near-universal opposition from the minority party as he readies for his confirmation hearing for a seat on the Supreme Court.
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly, both of whom voted for President Trump’s first high court nominee last year, sat down with Judge Kavanaugh — but didn’t tip their hand on how they’ll vote this time around.
“Hoosiers rightly expect careful and thoughtful consideration of a nomination to our nation’s highest court, and I plan to keep doing my homework and make a decision sometime after Kavanaugh’s committee confirmation hearing,” Mr. Donnelly said.
Ms. Heitkamp and Mr. Donnelly both represent states Mr. Trump carried overwhelmingly in 2016, and are prime targets, along with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, for GOP pressure. Mr. Manchin already met with Judge Kavanaugh, and released photos of the two men smiling and appearing to get along well.
No such images emerged from Wednesday’s meetings — a fact Republicans gleefully pointed out.
The Republican Party in North Dakota said Ms. Heitkamp has been ducking questions on the issue, under pressure from Democratic leaders to stay quiet and avoid creating a bandwagon effect in favor of Judge Kavanaugh.
Democrats are hoping to find landmines in Judge Kavanaugh’s past that they can use to convince the wavering Democrats to oppose him — and also convince moderate Republicans to defect and defeat the nomination.
They’re demanding access to millions of documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House from 2001 to 2006, before he was confirmed as a judge on the circuit court of appeals for Washington, D.C.
“Republicans used to demand transparency for SCOTUS noms. Now they’re blocking nearly all of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from public release and trying to rush through his nomination. What are Republicans hiding?” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, tweeted Wednesday.
Republicans have requested documents related to Judge Kavanaugh’s time working in the White House counsel’s office from 2001 to 2003, but have not asked for millions more pages from his time as staff secretary from 2003 to 2006.
GOP lawmakers say the judge’s roughly 300 legal opinions should be the main focus for lawmakers to review as they vet the president’s pick.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said a decade ago Mr. Schumer agreed with that — saying during Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s 2009 confirmation that “the judicial record, more than speeches and statements,” that is critical to judging a nominee.
At the time, then-Judge Sotomayor was fending off complaints about her writings and speeches, in which she said a “wise Latina” would reach a better judicial decision than a white male.
Democrats’ ardor for more Kavanaugh documents remains undaunted, however.
The National Archives says it is releasing roughly 900,000 pages related to Judge Kavanaugh’s time working in government.
“Because Judge Kavanaugh served both in the White House Counsel’s Office and as Staff Secretary under President George W. Bush, was then nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals by President Bush, and also served with the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr, the Archives has literally millions of pages of records related to him,” said Gary Stern, general counsel for the National Archives.
By comparison, the National Archives released 170,000 pages for Justice Elena Kagan and 70,000 pages for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. ahead of their hearings.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said Wednesday that 184,000 pages have already been turned over to the committee, and 124,000 of those pages have been released for the public to peruse.
Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network which is backing Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, praised the three Democratic senators for taking the meetings, but said the real test will be how they vote.
“Will they be the independent-minded senators they claim to be, or the Schumer lackeys their constituents fear they are? None of these senators can afford to ignore polling showing clear support for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation in their states,” she said.
Judge Kavanaugh needs a majority vote to get confirmed, in a chamber where the GOP only controls 51 of the 100 seats.