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How Senate Democrats May Respond To Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh


Now a Democratic veteran of Supreme Court fights. Stephanie Cutter helped lead the push to get President Obama's nominees confirmed to the court. And before that, she organized the Democrats' response to President George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominees. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Thank you so much for having me.

SHAPIRO: First, let me just get your reaction to Brett Kavanaugh being named.

CUTTER: Well, he's certainly got Supreme Court credentials. Nobody is surprised by this pick. But there are things in his writings and his case law that raise significant concerns for not just Democrats but I think ultimately for some Republicans, too.

SHAPIRO: But given that Democrats are in the minority, do you really think your party has enough leverage to have a significant impact on this nomination?

CUTTER: Well, I think it's definitely going to be an uphill battle. We don't have 50 votes. The only way we get to 50 plus one is with some Republican votes.

SHAPIRO: Before you even get to the question of flipping Republican senators, the Democrats have to hold their caucus together.

CUTTER: That's right. ]

SHAPIRO: And there are three red state Democrats up for re-election in states that President Trump won by a wide margin. How likely do you think it is that Democrats will be able to persuade those three members of the caucus to oppose this nominee?

CUTTER: I don't think we know yet. But if there's ever a time where we can hold it together, it's now because this is the swing seat. This will change the direction of the court for generations and have direct implications to the lives in these states. For instance, Joe Manchin, senator from West Virginia, said that his No. 1 issue is protecting health care for the 800,000 people in West Virginia with pre-existing conditions. Judge Kavanaugh is not a fan of the Affordable Care Act, has taken positions that undermine the Affordable Care Act and has even said that a president does not have to implement a law that he thinks is unconstitutional.

And we know that President Trump wants to undermine the Affordable Care Act. He hasn't been able to do that in Congress, so he's going to use the courts to do that. So that's a compelling argument and should be a compelling argument to Senator Manchin that the people in his state will suffer if Judge Kavanaugh gets on the court. And that argument needs to be made loud and clear.

SHAPIRO: If you're thinking as a Democratic political strategist in this midterm election year and if behind closed doors some Democrats are acknowledging that this nominee is unlikely to be blocked, that he will likely at the end of the day be confirmed, then what do you think the best thing Democrats can get out of this fight would be?

CUTTER: Well, I don't want to cede the fact that they can't block this because I do think the fact that it will swing the court in a much more conservative direction is a compelling argument. But if we're not able to defeat this nomination or delay it, I think a good outcome is to ultimately finally make clear to Democratic voters the importance of a Supreme Court pick and that votes matter.

You know, but for 80,000 votes in 2016, Hillary Clinton would be making this pick. But we have not done a good job as Democrats making the Supreme Court matter to voters and showing how it impacts their daily lives, showing how it can set the course of this country on issues that we often take for granted. And the courts are often the last line of defense or our only opportunity to move forward on social issues.

SHAPIRO: Do you think the fact that there is a Republican president and, even if Brett Kavanaugh is not confirmed to the court, President Trump will nominate someone else who will likely be in a similar mold - should Democrats in any way breathe a sigh of relief that the person who was nominated is an established judge with a long record in establishment circles as opposed to a reality TV star or someone else who could have come out of left field?

CUTTER: (Laughter) Well, I didn't see any reality TV stars on the Federalist Society list.


CUTTER: But you never know. They all meet a certain litmus test. And President Trump was very clear on that litmus test, clearer than any other president that he wants to overturn Roe and even criminalize that. He wants to undo the Affordable Care Act. These are things that social conservatives and traditional conservatives have been fighting for for years. I think the hope is that there would be more consensus building on what a nominee would be. That's the way the process used to work. That has all been washed away. But I think the hope is if we're able to defeat Judge Kavanaugh or delay it after the election, that we can take some of the politics out of this and start talking again.

SHAPIRO: Stephanie Cutter of Precision Strategies, also an ABC News analyst, thanks for joining us today.

CUTTER: Thank you.


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