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Red-state Democrats say they won’t confirm Brett Kavanaugh

October 1, 2018

The one-week pause on the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh might not be enough to change the minds of red-state Democratic senators who already have announced their opposition, siding with the base of their party on the issue over the partisan leanings of their respective states.

Key Democrats in Montana, Indiana and Florida all states won by President Trump in 2016 revealed their decision to vote against Judge Kavanaugh late last week, after dramatic testimony a day earlier that saw him and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s, testify about the alleged assault.

Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Donnelly of Indiana announced their opposition before the Senate Judiciary Committee called for a supplemental, weeklong investigation by the FBI into some of the allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Judge Kavanaugh.

Several other Democrats remain undecided, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday pointed out that Mr. Donnelly along with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who are also up for re-election this year all voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch last year.

“That is relevant,” Ms. Conway said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If they want to listen to the voters within their own states, they will see that the voters do want a Supreme Court justice confirmed sooner, rather than later.”

Mr. Manchin and Ms. Heitkamp have not yet indicated how they plan to vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, though both say they supported Sen. Jeff Flake’s call for the supplemental investigation.

“The American people have been pulled apart by this entire spectacle, and we need to take time to address these claims independently, so that our country can have confidence in the outcome of this vote,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement.

As for the senators who have announced their opposition, Mr. Tester cited his discomfort with Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy and decisions during his many years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit as part of the basis for his opposition.

Mr. Nelson had sought to maintain an aura of open-mindedness about Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination, which has been roiled by two other uncorroborated accusations of sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred when he was in high school and college.

“I will be voting no on Judge Kavanaugh,” Mr. Nelson tweeted Friday morning.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican challenging Mr. Nelson for the Senate seat, said the Democrat’s announcement wasn’t a surprise.

“You were always going to do exactly what your party leaders told you to do,” Mr. Scott tweeted.

Mr. Nelson offered no immediate reasoning behind his decision Friday, but Mr. Donnelly said he was troubled by Thursday’s testimony and not comfortable voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

“As I have made clear before, sexual assault has no place in our society,” Mr. Donnelly said in a statement. “When it does occur, we should listen to the survivors and work to ensure it never happens again. This should not be a partisan issue.”

Mike Braun, Mr. Donnelly’s Republican opponent, said the Democrat’s opposition to the nomination is a “grave mistake” and proves he’s more concerned about “standing with his liberal Democrat leaders than standing for Hoosiers.”

“This entire process has been an embarrassment to our democracy as Hoosiers watched firsthand how Sen. Donnelly’s liberal colleagues used uncorroborated allegations to create a media circus designed to smear and destroy Judge Kavanaugh’s reputation,” Mr. Braun said.

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