An allegation of decades-old sexual misconduct is threatening Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday explains how the allegation came to light at the 11th hour. Photo: AP
Worried their chance to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court could slip away, a growing number of evangelical and anti-abortion leaders are expressing frustration that Senate Republicans and the White House are not protecting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh more forcefully from a sexual assault allegation and warning that conservative voters may stay home in November if his nomination falls apart.
Several of these leaders, including ones with close ties to the White House and Senate Republicans, are urging Republicans to move forward with a confirmation vote imminently unless the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, agrees to share her story with the Senate Judiciary Committee within the next few days.
The evangelical leaders’ pleas are, in part, an attempt to apply political pressure: Some of them are warning that religious conservatives may feel little motivation to vote in the midterm elections unless Senate Republicans move the nomination out of committee soon and do more to defend Judge Kavanaugh from what they say is a desperate Democratic ploy to prevent President Trump from filling future court vacancies.
“One of the political costs of failing to confirm Brett Kavanaugh is likely the loss of the United States Senate,” said Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition who is in frequent contact with the White House.
“If Republicans were to fail to defend and confirm such an obviously and eminently qualified and decent nominee,” Mr. Reed added, “then it will be very difficult to motivate and energize faith-based and conservative voters in November.”
The evangelist Franklin Graham, one of Mr. Trump’s most unwavering defenders, told the Christian Broadcasting Network this week, “I hope the Senate is smarter than this, and they’re not going to let this stop the process from moving forward and confirming this man.”
Social conservatives are already envisioning a worst-case scenario related to Judge Kavanaugh, and they say it is not a remote one. Republican promises to shift the Supreme Court further to the right — which just a few days ago seemed like a fait accompli — have been one of the major reasons conservatives say they are willing to tolerate an otherwise dysfunctional Republican-controlled government. If Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, and recent political history is any guide, voters will most likely point the finger not at Mr. Trump but at Republican lawmakers.
.. The reason the prospect of Judge Kavanaugh’s defeat is so alarming to conservatives is that they fear he could be the last shot at reshaping the nation’s highest court for years. If Republicans were to lose control of the Senate, where they hold a 51-to-49 majority, in November, Mr. Trump would find it difficult to get anyone confirmed before the end of the year. Even if Senate leaders were able to schedule hearings and hold a vote, there could be defections from Republican senators uneasy about using a lame duck session to ram through a lifetime appointment that would tip the court’s ideological balance.
.. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas and one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal evangelical supporters, said he did not know who was telling the truth, Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Blasey. “But I can say with absolute certainty,” he added, “that the Democrats don’t care who is telling the truth. Their only interest is in delaying and derailing this confirmation.”
.. The importance of the Supreme Court to the Trump White House and the Republican Party is difficult to overstate. Mr. Trump has heralded Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Judge Kavanaugh, his two Supreme Court nominees, as crowning achievements in an otherwise uneven presidency.
.. Conservative groups have spent tens of millions of dollars building the men up as legal luminaries, gentleman scholars and the fulfillment of Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to nominate judges who have “a record of applying the Constitution just as it was written,”
.. A relatively smooth, predictable confirmation fight has also been a key part of Republicans’ strategy to keep the Senate. In the 10 states that Mr. Trump won where Democratic senators are up for re-election, Republicans have attacked Democrats for either opposing the judge or remaining noncommittal.
.. some are also arguing that they cannot be indifferent and insensitive to a victim.
.. But many conservatives see little use in being deferential when, they argue, the Democrats play by no such rules. They look back at the failed confirmation of the Republican nominee Robert Bork in 1987, whose writings on civil rights were picked over by Democrats, and the 1991 hearings for Clarence Thomas, who faced testimony from Anita Hill that he had sexually harassed her, and they see a sophisticated and ruthless Democratic machine bent on discrediting their nominees.
.. “Republicans are right, as a moral matter as well as a political matter, to take allegations of misbehavior like this seriously,” said Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project and a veteran social conservative strategist. “At the same time, we’ve seen anything and everything thrown at Republican Supreme Court nominees for decades,” he added, noting that Republicans have been slow to understand that Democrats are “playing by different rules.”
.. Privately, some conservatives were thrilled that Dr. Blasey and her lawyer have resisted the opportunity to testify in the Senate on Monday and demanded instead that the F.B.I. first investigate her claims. That would be just enough, they said, to give Republicans the justification for moving forward without her. The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, made clear on Wednesday that he would not postpone a hearing past Monday.
.. sets up a fight that Republicans could win in the Senate but might ultimately lose at the ballot box in November. The level of outrage could run so hot among Democrats, who would likely use every procedural and political tool at their disposal to delay confirmation, that it could provide even more fuel to an already energized liberal base.
.. “Given the confirmation theatrics, followed by this allegation that was held until the last moment, this could be seen as another partisan attack and could actually fuel conservative turnout,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
.. Conservatives are likely to use protests and other forms of resistance to Judge Kavanaugh as a way to clarify for unmotivated Republican voters what Democratic control of the Senate means: a Trump-nominated Supreme Court justice would never be confirmed again.
“If Chuck Schumer is majority leader and Dianne Feinstein is chairman of the Judiciary Committee,” said Mr. Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, “it will be open season on any Trump nominee to the federal bench at any level of the judiciary.”
It will be nice to have one woman in the majority when the Supreme Court finally overturns Roe v. Wade.
.. She is the youngest of the five top choices, which is a mark in her favor given that the nominee will have life tenure and Trump will want one who will leave a lasting mark on the law... Her educational history — she went to Rhodes College and Notre Dame Law School — would add a little welcome diversity to a Supreme Court full of Yale and Harvard alumni... Barrett has also recently been through Senate confirmation to a federal appeals court. She won the support of all the Republicans and three Democrats.. But they will be hard-pressed to argue that she is an extremist given their own recent support... “Dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said, in reference to Barrett’s Catholic faith. Never mind that Barrett had already said that “it is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions, whether it derives from faith or personal conviction.”
.. Feinstein’s office defended the senator by noting that Barrett had also written, in an article for the Notre Dame Alumni Association, that all people play a role “in God’s ever-unfolding plan to redeem the world” — which is a fairly basic statement of Christian belief that does not imply support for the judicial imposition of theocracy.
.. opposing a woman will probably be more awkward for senators than opposing a man would be. Also, it cannot be good for conservatism that all three women now on the court are liberals.
.. If Roe v. Wade is ever overturned — as I certainly hope it will be, as it is an unjust decision with no plausible basis in the Constitution — it would be better if it were not done by only male justices, with every female justice in dissent.
So pick Barrett, Mr. President. Let the dogma live loudly on the Supreme Court.
And Republicans expect — and want — liberals to be so freaked out by thisthat they oppose her in a manner that can be branded anti-religious. They’re setting her up to be a Christian martyr, minus the grisly end, and daring Democrats to take the bait.
.. Aaron Blake sagely sized up the appeal of this dynamic to Trump, writing that it’s “exactly the kind of battle he generally relishes: One that invites his opponents to overreach.” My Times colleague Ross Douthat tweeted that if Trump wants to “trigger the libs,” he’ll nominate Barrett. Douthat further predicted that her nomination “might bring on the culture-war apocalypse.”
.. She’s the most tactically fascinating of the front-runners in several ways. At 46, she’s the youngest, so her time on the court could easily cover four decades. She’s a longtime resident of Indiana, which happens to be home to Joe Donnelly, one of three Democratic senators whose votes are most clearly in play when it comes to confirming Trump’s nominee.
.. She’d be the only justice on the Supreme Court without the imprimatur of the Ivy League, and there’s little whiff of the coastal elites about her. She did her undergraduate work at Rhodes College in Tennessee and then attended law school at Notre Dame
.. her own time on the bench is limited to her eight months on that court.
.. her promoters revel openly in the idea of Roe v. Wade being overturned after the addition of another woman to a Supreme Court that would then have an almost even gender balance of four women and five men.
.. her Senate confirmation hearings after her nomination for the circuit court made her a hero to conservatives, especially religious ones. They took issue in particular with questions that Senator Dianne Feinstein
.. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said