Last night, my friend Erick Erickson made an astute observation about one outcome from the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing debacle. It’s creating a kind of unity among the GOP, perhaps especially in the leadership caste, that’s been notably absent for the last couple of years:
Of course, the Kavanaugh nomination had at least some intention to accomplish that anyway. When the opening presented itself in late June with Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court, there was some limited chatter that Donald Trump might not want anyone so connected to George W. Bush as a nominee. Amy Coney Barrett was viewed by some as the real disruptor choice. Trump wisely chose Kavanaugh based on his long experience, but part of that choice was at least a tacit outreach to the Bush wing of the party.
Perhaps that didn’t get fully appreciated until Dianne Feinstein’s sucker punch. However, one man certainly appreciated it — and he might make the difference in getting Kavanaugh over the top. Deep in a Washington Post article discussing the reactions to yesterday’s hearing, they report that Bush himself has been quietly lobbying those Republican senators that have grown disaffected with Trump:
Of course, the finale is yet to come, another two-part set piece when the Senate Judiciary gathers Friday to vote Kavanaugh out of committee and then again when the entire Senate votes.
Trump’s options are somewhat limited, White House and Capitol Hill aides say. The key votes — Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — are not easily swayed by the president, these people say. At least some of these members have received calls from former president George W. Bush in recent days, aides say.
Bush might be the one man who can unlock those three votes for Mitch McConnell, in part by reminding them that Kavanaugh represents a critical norm in more ways than one. Kavanaugh is no nihilist, on the bench or anywhere else; he’s spent a lot of time in Washington and hasn’t thrown tables around the room anywhere he’s been. Collins, Murkowski, and perhaps Flake would appreciate that reminder, as well as another that what follows after a Kavanaugh character assassination might be not only much less part of a norm, but also impossible to oppose after the injustice seen in this process. In fact, if Bush is smart (and he most certainly is), he’ll argue that Trump’s selection of Kavanaugh is a defense of norms, while rewarding Democrats’ character assassination would be abetting their destruction.
Let’s hope Bush keeps burning up those phone lines. While Matt Vespa’s Senate source claims that Mitch McConnell has locked up enough votes to move Kavanaugh out of committee and to confirm him on the floor, Axios reports this morning that McConnell’s only got a hard 48:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has 48 hard “yes” votes, and needs 50 for a win, with Vice President Pence breaking the tie. …
The uncommitted Republican senators are Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and the retiring Jeff Flake of Arizona. GOP vote counters believe that to avoid future primary challenges fueled by the Trump machine, Collins and Murkowski will find their way to voting “aye.”
This brings us to another missed point — Rachel Mitchell’s hiring. Chuck Grassley certainly wanted to avoid the optics of Republican men pressing Ford for details, but he also knew that he’d have to produce a line of questioning that would satisfy the three holdouts that the allegation wasn’t substantiated. That’s precisely what he got:
Rachel Mitchell, Republican’s outside questioner, privately told GOP senators tonight that based on the evidence she heard at the hearing, she would not have prosecuted or even been able to obtain a search warrant, according to three Republicans
— Nicholas Fandos (@npfandos) September 28, 2018
They won’t have much time to decide. The Senate will take a procedural vote tomorrow on Kavanaugh’s confirmation that will likely settle matters. With this in hand and the words of both Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn ringing in their ears, all it might take is a little push from Bush to move this past the finish line.