The Senate’s long, hot Supreme Court battle starts Monday

The Senate's long, hot Supreme Court battle starts Monday.

by Susan Ferrechio · July 8, 2018
The unveiling of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee on Monday will immediately shift the focus of the Senate to confirming that pick in a few short months, and create a frenzy as GOP and Democratic senators try to steal a handful of votes in the middle that will determine the outcome.

Since 2005, all Supreme Court Justices have been confirmed in less than three months, and Republicans are hoping to stick to that schedule so Trump’s nominee is seated for the new Supreme Court term in October.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told the Washington Examiner such a time frame is “a reasonable parameter” for the next nominee. “I’d be happy to go faster, but I’m not sure everybody would,” Cornyn said.

To get there, Trump’s nominee is expected to quickly start making the rounds to Senate offices for individual interviews. That will be followed later this summer by a yet-to-be-scheduled confirmation hearing that will include written questionnaires from each of the 21 lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But the most important part of the process will be the cajoling of a handful of senators on each side who could either rescue of sink the nominee. With Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., not voting, Republicans hold a 50-49 advantage in the Senate, which means they need to steal a Democrat for every Republican who decides to vote against Trump’s pick.

Democrats are already targeting three Republican women as votes that could be turned against Trump, depending on the nominee — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

The prospect of these senators voting against the nominee gives them enormous leverage over who Trump chooses, but it also gives Democrats an opening to turn one of them and scuttle the nomination.

The three senators say there are many factors that will influence their vote on a nominee, but progressive Democrats think the issue of abortion and the possibility of a Republican threat to Roe v. Wade could be the best line of attack.

Collins, Murkowski, and Capito have voted for both pro- and anti-abortion legislation, but all three back the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Carefully planned questions by Democrats will be aimed at ferreting out the kind of answers from the nominee that would threaten the support of Collins, Murkowski, or Capito, who are not on the committee.

“I’m going to consider everything,” Capito said when reporters recently asked her about the importance of abortion rights in the confirmation process.

Progressive groups are already planning to air advertisements aimed at pressuring both Murkowski and Collins.

“Americans need to know whether the nominee will protect the right of women to make their own healthcare decisions,” argues an ACLU ad airing that began airing Friday in Maine and Alaska.

But Democrats will also be under intense pressure to stick together.

Vulnerable red-staters like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are trying to win re-election in states that that voted for Trump. He and GOP lawmakers and outside groups will put pressure on these Democratic lawmakers to vote with Republicans.

All three voted for Trump’s last Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed in 2017.

Republicans and Democrats have already indicated they’ll be exerting as much pressure as they can on each other in the fight, which some say could put Roe v. Wade and Obamacare at risk.

“Those who want to go back to the days when insurers could deny patients coverage because of a pre-existing conditions, or when women had to seek out back-alley abortions, want you to feel powerless now, because that’s how they win,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., warned in a Saturday morning address on behalf of the Democrats. “But we can’t let them. So please, tell anyone who isn’t fired up yet what’s at stake. Tweet, post, march, call and write to your elected officials.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., seems to be bracing for a long, sustained attack by Democrats.

“The far-left special interest groups are already calling on Senate Democrats to oppose anyone on President Trump’s long list of potential nominees,” McConnell said in a recent floor speech. “I’m afraid this may just be a precursor of all the unfair attacks to come.”

Washington Examiner · by Susan Ferrechio · July 8, 2018

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