More Senate Democrats will meet with Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh this month as the White House is warning that time is running short for Democratic leaders to schedule sit-downs with the judge before his confirmation hearings next month.
A White House official said Tuesday that Democratic Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee; Christopher A. Coons (Del.); Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) have scheduled one-on-one meetings with Kavanaugh. All are members of the committee and will question the nominee at his confirmation hearings, which are scheduled for the first week of September.
Kavanaugh already has met with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and is scheduled to sit down with Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) on Wednesday, when the Senate returns from its truncated recess. All three voted to confirm now-Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and are seen as the likeliest trio of Democrats who would cross the aisle and back Kavanaugh. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) also has announced she will meet with Kavanaugh on Aug. 21.
Most Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), had refused to meet with the nominee until a separate fight over Kavanaugh’s documents were resolved. But Democrats and Republicans never reached a deal in the dispute.
“Judge Kavanaugh was nominated 35 days ago and began meeting with senators the following morning. Meanwhile, Senator Schumer pledged to ‘oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have,’ and his caucus launched a partisan campaign of obstruction,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said Tuesday in a statement to The Washington Post. “A number of Democratic senators (including those in leadership and on the Judiciary Committee) have declined or not responded to invitations to meet with Judge Kavanaugh, who has made himself available for meetings with senators for more than a month now.”
Shah noted that after Kavanaugh meets with Donnelly and Heitkamp on Wednesday, the nominee will have completed meetings with roughly half of the Senate. He has so far met with 47 senators and will, according to a White House official, meet with nine more before he formally goes before the Judiciary Committee.
The White House also implicitly warned that time was running out for Democrats to schedule a meeting with Kavanaugh before he becomes consumed with hearing preparations during the last week of August.
“He is scheduled to continue meetings with senators through the end of next week (until senators leave Washington on Thursday, Aug. 23), after which time, he will be fully engaged in extensive preparations for the hearing scheduled the first week in September,” Shah said in the statement.
With the document impasse unresolved, Schumer and Feinstein have indicated that they will meet with Kavanaugh — primarily to press him on his significant paper trail from his tenure in the George W. Bush White House — although nothing official is on the books. Other Senate Democrats are likely to follow Schumer and Feinstein’s lead.
“I may well meet with him, partly or largely out of a desire — or out of an objective — to enlist his help in this document production,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Tuesday in an interview. “My question to him is, why are they concealing these documents? . . . What are they trying to hide?”
Republicans have requested to see documents only from Kavanaugh’s two years as associate White House counsel, while Democrats are demanding to see his full record, including from his three years as Bush’s staff secretary.