Republicans immediately scoffed at Schumer’s suggestion that Kavanaugh should be forced to answer such specific questions, with Senator John Cornyn, the party’s second-ranking member, calling it a “pipe dream.” But for Democrats, putting Kavanaugh on the spot may be their only hope of stopping his nomination. In a flurry of statements immediately after—and, in some cases, before—Trump’s announcement, Senate Democrats vowed to oppose Kavanaugh on the grounds that, as a favorite of the conservative Federalist Society, he would provide a fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, side with corporate interests against working people, and generally move an already conservative Court further to the right.
“Judge Brett Kavanaugh represents a direct and fundamental threat to [the] promise of equality and so I will oppose his nomination to the Supreme Court,” said Senator Kamala Harris of California, a member of the Judiciary Committee and a possible White House contender in 2020, in a statement emailed minutes after Trump and Kavanaugh finished speaking on Monday night. “Specifically, as a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy, his nomination presents an existential threat to the health care of hundreds of millions of Americans.”
Schumer vowed to oppose Kavanaugh “with everything I have.” Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, an anti-abortion Democrat up for reelection this fall, didn’t bother to wait for Trump’s 9 p.m. unveiling. “I will oppose the nomination the president will make tonight because it represents a corrupt bargain with the far right, big corporations, and Washington special interests,” Casey tweeted shortly before noon.
Other Democrats said they would oppose Kavanaugh on the basis that Trump should not make a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court while he is under investigation. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey noted that the appellate judge, who worked for Kenneth Starr during his investigation of Bill Clinton in the 1990s, has written that presidents should not be subject to such inquiries while in office. “That,” Booker said, “should raise enormous red flags.”
Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who has backed some of Trump’s judicial nominees, did not take an immediate position on Kavanaugh, but he urged the Senate to wait until after the November midterm elections to vote on his nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to ignore that advice, because he wants to install Kavanaugh for the beginning of the Court’s next term in October.
Ahead of Monday’s announcement, all but a few Democrats were expected to oppose Trump’s nominee, regardless of who made the cut. On their own, however, Democrats don’t have the votes to block Kavanaugh, since McConnell moved last year to eliminate the filibuster for all presidential nominations in order to secure the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch. With 49 votes, Democrats would need at least one Republican, and possibly two, to oppose Kavanaugh and kill his nomination. (The GOP has 51 seats, but Senator John McCain has not cast a vote all year as he undergoes treatment for brain cancer in Arizona.)