Kavanaugh confirmation hearings set for Sept. 4

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings will start on Sept. 4 and last between three and four days, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced on Friday.

That scheduling tees up the GOP to meet its goal of getting President Donald Trump’s pick seated on the high court by the time its term begins in early October, barring unforeseen obstacles or a breakthrough by Democrats who are pushing to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The Supreme Court battle so far has focused on documents related to Kavanaugh’s five years in the George W. Bush White House. Democrats have excoriated the GOP for declining to seek records from the nominee’s time as Bush’s staff secretary and condemned the Republican decision to rely on a Bush-driven review process for the early round of vetting, while the majority party hails the vast scope of documents that are set for release.

Grassley said earlier this Continue reading “Kavanaugh confirmation hearings set for Sept. 4”

2018 the Year of the Woman? Not so fast

Female candidates are signing up to run for Congress at a record-breaking pace this election cycle. But will 2019 be the year women make huge gains on Capitol Hill? Not so much.

Despite record-shattering numbers of women waging campaigns at the House, Senate and statewide executive levels, women will still lag far behind men in the proportion of those elected offices they occupy — no matter what happens in November.

Currently, women make up nearly 20 percent of the House, while 23 of the 100 senators are women. Those figures may well see an uptick after the election, but the increase will be nominal.

Indeed, in an election year in which female candidates have ascended to prominence — particularly Democratic women buoyed by a wave of anti-Trump resistance and a fervent liberal base — it’s easy to overlook that they still make up less than a quarter of all House Continue reading “2018 the Year of the Woman? Not so fast”

Dems zero in on Kavanaugh ties to judge in sexual harassment scandal

Senate Democrats are gearing up to press Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on his decades-long relationship with former Judge Alex Kozinski, who was forced into retirement last year by a mounting sexual harassment scandal.

It’s not just what, if anything, Kavanaugh saw during his time as a Kozinski clerk in the early 1990s that’s on Democratic minds. They also want to know how President Donald Trump’s high court pick would address the judiciary’s ongoing internal reckoning with sexual misconduct that was sparked by Kozinski — one of Kavanaugh’s early mentors who introduced the younger appellate court judge at his Senate confirmation hearing in 2006.

“Sexual harassment and workplace misconduct in the federal judiciary is a matter of concern to all of us, including Chief Justice [John] Roberts, who convened a Judicial Conference working group to assess the problem and propose solutions,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said through a spokesman.

“Given Continue reading “Dems zero in on Kavanaugh ties to judge in sexual harassment scandal”

Graham chairmanship would test Trump ties

Lindsey Graham has painstakingly developed a chummy relationship with President Donald Trump — but he may soon be the Senate’s point person on an issue that sharply divides them: immigration.

The South Carolina Republican is in line to take over the Senate Judiciary Committee next year after a potential game of musical chairs in committee leadership. And though Graham’s centrist leanings on immigration don’t jibe with Trump’s hard-line politics, his growing closeness to a president he once openly loathed may prove the best hope for reform in the Trump era.

After a 2016 campaign spent predicting that the GOP would be “destroyed” if Trump was its nominee, these days Graham has become one of the president’s loudest defenders.

That’s given Graham real cachet with Trump, even as he hasn’t shrunk from tangling with the White House on immigration and seeking out bipartisan compromise. Should the GOP keep control of the Continue reading “Graham chairmanship would test Trump ties”

Grassley: Kavanaugh confirmation hearings likely next month

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings are expected next month, with a final vote in October at the latest, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Wednesday.

Grassley’s forecast that hearings on President Donald Trump’s nominee will slip until next month gives the GOP a narrow window in which to meet their goal of getting Kavanaugh confirmed and seated on the high court by the time its term starts in early October.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, has warned that Democratic attempts to delay the process would only force the minority’s vulnerable red-state incumbents to stay in session longer — and off the campaign trail — in order to get Kavanaugh approved sometime in October before the midterm elections.

The Judiciary chairman told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that "maybe a week from now I can be more specific," but Kavanaugh’s hearings would take place Continue reading “Grassley: Kavanaugh confirmation hearings likely next month”

In 2000, Kavanaugh criticized idea of independent counsel

Brett Kavanaugh said that Congress had ceded its "constitutional duty" to investigate former President Bill Clinton to an independent counsel during an event in 2000, remarks that give Democrats new fodder to tar the Supreme Court nominee as potentially partial to President Donald Trump in any future showdown with special counsel Robert Mueller.

A partial videotape of Kavanaugh’s comments during a Duke University discussion on the Clinton impeachment, obtained by the office of Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and shared with POLITICO, represents his fourth public statement thus far that Congress should play the primary role in investigating a sitting president — rather than an independent counsel.

Kavanaugh’s past skepticism that a sitting president can be indicted, though it comports with previous Justice Department opinions, is a major flashpoint for Democrats who warn that his confirmation would give Trump a reliable ally if Mueller’s Russia investigation sparks a legal Continue reading “In 2000, Kavanaugh criticized idea of independent counsel”

Heitkamp: No Koch endorsement for me

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp isn’t surprised that the Koch network is withholding its support for her GOP challenger — but that doesn’t mean she’ll be seeking an endorsement from the conservative political powerhouse.

Heitkamp won a digital thank-you ad campaign from Americans for Prosperity, a leading Koch-funded group, after she helped pass a bipartisan banking deregulation bill that had pitted her and other moderate Democrats against influential liberals. Still, the North Dakotan underscored on Tuesday that the Koch network’s refusal to support Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who’s challenging her in November, "doesn’t mean that they’ve endorsed me."

"The Koch brothers have definitely a perspective and a point of view, including on trade, and my opponent has been particularly opaque and unaware of the consequences of this [Trump] trade policy," Heitkamp said in a brief interview, adding that she has no plans to seek the network’s formal announcement.

The Continue reading “Heitkamp: No Koch endorsement for me”

Senate hits stalemate over release of disputed Kavanaugh documents

Efforts to strike a deal on access to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s records neared implosion on Tuesday as Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats sent their own wide-ranging request for documents on President Donald Trump’s high court pick.

The two parties have jostled over Kavanaugh’s records for weeks, with Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) unilaterally making his own documents request after attempted bipartisan talks to seek records from the years the conservative judge spent in George W. Bush’s White House counsel’s office.

Democrats have vowed to keep pushing for records from Kavanaugh’s time as Bush’s staff secretary, and on Tuesday they expanded their request to seek even documents that referenced or passed through Kavanaugh’s inbox during his five years in the Bush White House.

"We recognize that reviewing the archives and producing these documents is a significant task," the committee Democrats wrote to the director of the George W. Bush Presidential Continue reading “Senate hits stalemate over release of disputed Kavanaugh documents”

Manchin sits with Kavanaugh, but wants another meeting

After meeting with Brett Kavanaugh on Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin said that he likely would seek a second sitdown after the Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation hearings — thus extending the amount of time the West Virginia Democrat will remain undecided even as pressure on him ramps up.

Manchin spent two hours in what he repeatedly called a "very productive" meeting with Kavanaugh, becoming the first Senate Democrat to greet President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick on the Hill.

But the intense pro-Kavanaugh push Manchin faces from conservative groups and GOP challenger Patrick Morrisey didn’t appear to affect him, a sign that Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) private entreaties for vulnerable red-state Democrats to keep mum on their stance may be paying off.

Manchin told reporters after meeting with Kavanaugh that he expects to seek a second meeting with the nominee after the Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing, the same Continue reading “Manchin sits with Kavanaugh, but wants another meeting”

Rand Paul backs Kavanaugh for Supreme Court

Sen. Rand Paul announced his support for Brett Kavanaugh on Monday, cutting short speculation over whether the Kentucky Republican might actually oppose President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee over his record on privacy.

Paul released a statement citing the Supreme Court’s June ruling in Carpenter v. United States, which broadly limited law enforcement’s ability to monitor individuals using cell phone data without a warrant, as a "new precedent" leaving him hopeful that "Judge Kavanaugh will be more open to a Fourth Amendment that protects digital records and property."

“Of course, my vote is not a single-issue vote, and much of my reading and conversation has been in trying to figure out exactly how good Judge Kavanaugh will be on other issues before the Court," Paul added in his statement of support.

Although few in either party believed that Paul ultimately would oppose Kavanaugh, particularly after the libertarian-leaning senator Continue reading “Rand Paul backs Kavanaugh for Supreme Court”

Inside Democrats’ strategy to defeat Kavanaugh

As many Democrats and activists worked to stop Gina Haspel from becoming CIA director this spring, Sen. Joe Manchin derailed them with one move: blurting out his support for the controversial pick in a TV interview, effectively clinching her confirmation for President Donald Trump.

Now Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer faces the monumental task of defeating Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and he’s counting on Manchin and a half-dozen other vulnerable Democrats to keep any hint that they might support the high court nominee to themselves.

“All Chuck ever says in caucus [meetings], it’s pretty well known: ‘Keep your powder dry. Don’t commit. Stay as neutral as you can, as long as you can,’” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “It gives him some room to maneuver.”

Manchin is meeting with Kavanaugh on Monday afternoon, the first test of whether he can hold his poker face deep Continue reading “Inside Democrats’ strategy to defeat Kavanaugh”

Feinstein blasts National Archives amid Kavanaugh documents fight

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday warned the National Archives against "a biased denial of document requests" after the nonpartisan agency stated that the GOP solely holds the rights to request documents on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) rebuke of the Archives escalates a clash over Kavanaugh documents that has raged all week long in the upper chamber, with Democrats pushing for full access to the record of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick while Republicans accuse them of trying to stall his confirmation.

After Feinstein raised questions last week about "a large team of outside private lawyers" reviewing documents from Kavanaugh’s five years in the George W. Bush White House for compliance with the Presidential Records Act, the Archives noted in its response that Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) "exclusively" retains power to make document requests under the law.

"Your Continue reading “Feinstein blasts National Archives amid Kavanaugh documents fight”

Bipartisan Senate proposal unveiled to stop Trump from leaving NATO

Two senior GOP senators joined two Democrats on Thursday to propose a bill that would allow Congress to stop President Donald Trump from pulling out of NATO, the U.S.-European alliance that Trump has repeatedly criticized.

The legislation, from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), would let the Senate take the executive branch to court if any administration attempts to withdraw from NATO without first seeking the upper chamber’s approval. The bipartisan measure also sets out formal opposition to withdrawal from NATO.

Trump has suggested in the past that the United States might pull out of NATO if European nations don’t up their defense spending, though doing so would likely require an act of Congress. Trump took a fresh potshot Thursday during remarks to steelworkers in Illinois, describing the post-World War II alliance as “better Continue reading “Bipartisan Senate proposal unveiled to stop Trump from leaving NATO”

Former ambassador says Trump needs to ensure safe travel for U.S. ex-officials

Michael McFaul, the former American ambassador to Russia, left a meeting with senators on Wednesday urging the Trump administration to ensure that former U.S. government officials can travel freely overseas without getting targeted by Moscow.

The Senate voted 98-0 last Thursday to symbolically disapprove of any attempt to make current or former U.S. officials available for questioning by Russia after President Donald Trump initially entertained an offer by President Vladimir Putin to give his government access to McFaul and other American critics of the Kremlin — an offer the White House later nixed.

But McFaul, who got a commemorative copy of the resolution from senators at Wednesday’s meeting, called on Trump’s team to go further by speaking out against the prospect that he or other former U.S. officials would get detained in a third country if Russia added his name to an Interpol list of individuals wanted Continue reading “Former ambassador says Trump needs to ensure safe travel for U.S. ex-officials”

Bipartisan talks on migrant family separation hit Senate impasse

Bipartisan Senate talks on a long-term fix for the Trump administration’s detention of migrant families publicly sputtered on Wednesday, one day ahead of a key legal deadline for reunifying separated parents and children.

Four senators who have worked across the aisle for months on a legislative remedy after this spring’s family separation crisis continue to trade ideas as well as language. But the extent of their impasse was laid bare Wednesday when Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) took to the floor to seek unanimous passage of his proposal to ease requirements under a 1997 settlement that set strict standards for the detention of migrant children — a nonstarter for Democrats.

Democrats objected to Tillis’ request, setting up a back-and-forth that revealed ongoing tensions over how to treat that 1997 court settlement, known as the Flores agreement. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the minority whip and one of two Democrats Continue reading “Bipartisan talks on migrant family separation hit Senate impasse”

Senate eyes hitting Russia in slap to Trump

Bipartisan momentum is building in the Senate to crack down on Russia, even as President Donald Trump prepares to bring Vladimir Putin to Washington.

It’s a remarkable split-screen moment, with lawmakers pressing not only for new penalties against the Kremlin but for Trump to use more of the sanctions power Congress overwhelmingly approved one year ago. The effort is still something of a long shot — Trump himself fumed over the sanctions measure he signed into law and might resist — but the possibility of a follow-up Russia sanctions package remains very much alive despite the intense partisan pressure ahead of November’s midterms.

That’s largely because of Trump’s jaw-dropping performance in Helsinki next to the Russian president, which will be a major focus of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

“I understand why members would want to respond to what happened in Continue reading “Senate eyes hitting Russia in slap to Trump”

Partisan discord builds over Trump Supreme Court pick

Partisan tensions over records on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh boiled over on Tuesday, as Democrats insisted on access to all communications from his five years in the George W. Bush White House while Republicans tried to narrow the scope of the massive document release.

Amid the back-and-forth over records, a final confirmation vote on Kavanaugh could end up slipping past the GOP goal of getting President Donald Trump’s pick seated in time for the early-October start of the Supreme Court term. The Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to schedule a hearing for Kavanaugh, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed only that the chamber would “finish this nomination” before the midterm elections.

Top Republicans lambasted the Democratic demands for all of Kavanaugh’s documents, including emails that he received but did not author during his stints in the counsel and staff secretary offices of the Bush White House. Senate Continue reading “Partisan discord builds over Trump Supreme Court pick”

Kavanaugh inches closer to confirmation hearing with new filing

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh formally returned a 110-page questionnaire along with more than 2,000 pages of accompanying material to the Senate Judiciary Committee late Friday, bringing himself one step closer to a scheduled confirmation hearing.

Kavanaugh stated in his responses to the committee that, before President Donald Trump tapped him for the high court, no member of the administration or others involved in the vetting processed had asked about "any currently pending or specific case, legal issue, or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning your position on such case, issue, or question."

The 53-year-old nominee spent five years in former President George W. Bush’s White House before serving 12 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In addition to the basic biographical information he submitted, Kavanaugh delivered to senators more than Continue reading “Kavanaugh inches closer to confirmation hearing with new filing”

Russia sanctions bill gains bipartisan traction in Senate

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are stepping up a push for action on their bipartisan proposal to hit Russia with automatic new sanctions if it interferes in future U.S. elections.

Rubio and Van Hollen have asked bipartisan leaders of the Banking and Foreign Relations committees, which share jurisdiction over sanctions legislation, to hold a hearing on and mark up their plan to impose new penalties on Moscow within 10 days after the director of national intelligence determines that further electoral meddling has occurred.

Introduced in January, the Rubio-Van Hollen bill picked up eight new cosponsors on Thursday, evenly divided between both parties. The bill’s momentum has grown steadily since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) mentioned it on Tuesday as one option on the table for the Senate to respond to President Donald Trump’s warm posture toward Vladimir Putin’s government, although some senators Continue reading “Russia sanctions bill gains bipartisan traction in Senate”

Senate leaders jostle amid Trump-Putin fallout

Top senators in both parties continued jockeying for the upper hand on Russia on Thursday, with little sign of concrete action in the short term in response to President Donald Trump’s widely criticized appearance with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after a meeting with Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that he had asked their two committees to hold hearings on the implementation of last year’s bipartisan Russia sanctions bill "and to recommend to the Senate additional measures that could respond to or deter Russian malign behavior."

Routing the matter through those committees, however, promises to slow down action on any potential legislation ratcheting up pressure on Moscow after Trump’s friendly overtures to Putin this week. The move also could sap momentum for a bipartisan Russia sanctions bill from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Continue reading “Senate leaders jostle amid Trump-Putin fallout”