President Donald Trump’s naming of Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh Monday to the Supreme Court shifts the political spotlight to a U.S. Senate deeply divided between a razor-thin Republican majority and a desperately determined Democratic minority seeking to block the nomination.
“President [Donald] Trump has made a superb choice,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a statement Monday night. “He is widely admired for his intellect, experience, and exemplary judicial temperament. He has won the respect of his peers and is highly regarded throughout the legal community.
“And his judicial record demonstrates a firm understanding of the role of a judge in our Republic: Setting aside personal views and political preferences in order to interpret our laws as they are written.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) could hardly have taken a more opposite view:
“In selecting Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, President Trump has put reproductive rights and freedoms and health care protections for millions of Americans on the judicial chopping block. His own writings make clear that he would rule against reproductive rights and freedoms, and that he would welcome challenges to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.”
McConnell and Schumer both need 51 votes, the former to confirm Kavanaugh as the ninth justice and thus go a long way toward cementing a conservative majority on the nation’s highest tribunal, and the latter to leave the court deadlocked with eight justices, pending the outcome of the November mid-term elections that Democrats hope will restore their control of the Senate.
McConnell faces the tougher challenge in some ways because one of his GOP colleagues, Sen. John McCain (R-Az) is home fighting cancer and is considered unlikely to be able to vote on the nomination. That means McConnell must corral all 49 other Republicans, plus his own vote, to confirm Kavanaugh, whereas Schumer need only lure one GOP senator away.
But that scenario assumes Schumer can keep all of his Democrats in line, and with half-a-dozen Democrat senators from states Trump carried handily in 2016 facing re-election, the minority leader could have even more of his troops breaking rank than McConnell.
Notably among those Trump invited to the White House for the announcement were sens. Heidi Heitkampf (D-N.D.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). All three declined, saying they preferred to meet Kavanaugh one-on-one, beginning Tuesday.
McConnell has one ace up his sleeve that Schumer can’t match — Should there be …