Progressive groups are taking aim at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) for what they consider his failure to whip Senate Democrats into opposing President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Outside groups have set up moving billboards on Capitol Hill and issued demands that the Democratic minority in the Senate to unify against Kavanaugh, but Schumer has been caught between warring factions in his party, The Hill reports.
Democracy for America spokesman Neil Sroka said outside groups are asking "what the hell Chuck Schumer thinks he’s doing" after Democrats played "patty-cake" with Kavanaugh since he was nominated.
"The Democrats that are going to be essential to winning this election in the fall are positively apoplectic about the incompetent leadership we’re seeing from Chuck Schumer in the fight against Kavanaugh," Sroka said.
Schumer is caught between those on the left, such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), who have opposed Kavanaugh since before he was nominated, and moderates willing to consider him. Vulnerable Democrats in swing states or even red states are dismissing calls for Democrats to reject Kavanaugh as a bloc, a sentiment colorfully expressed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.).
"I'll be 71 years old in August, you're going to whip me? Kiss my you know what," Manchin said.
Some Republicans argue Schumer's work coordinating Democratic disruption of Kavanaugh's hearings, along with prominent Democrats' virulent criticisms of the nominee, is harmful to moderate Democrats' hopes of re-election.
"Democratic presidential hopefuls are trying to turn Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing into more of a 2020 primary contest than a serious debate," National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Katie Martin said. "But while the ambition-obsessed Senators put on a performance for future campaign ads, they’re throwing red state Democrats under the bus."
Progressives see it differently. They are telling Schumer to threaten to revoke leadership positions from moderate senators who don't oppose Kavanaugh.
Heidi Hess, a co-director of Credo Action, is one of many progressives arguing Schumer's strategy is to allow vulnerable Democrats to vote for Kavanaugh in order to help save their seat.
"It’s hard to deny that that’s just not his strategy," Hess said. "He’s been prioritizing the seats over the values."
Credo Action has even had a mobile billboard driving around Capitol Hill this week demanding Schumer unify all 49 senators in the Democratic caucus. It has the hashtag "#WTFChuck."
"The argument that their voting for Kavanaugh will somehow help them in their reelection is absolute horse shit," Sroka also said.
No. 2 Democrat in the Senate Dick Durbin (Ill.) defended Schumer against "unfair" attacks, saying it's an "uphill battle" to stop Kavanaugh with only 49 votes. He said progressives who are furious don't understand how much independence senators have from their party.
"The Senate doesn’t work that way, and the groups that are asking for it are not in touch with reality," Durbin said.
Some on the left also called for Democrats to walk out of the hearing, and Durbin dismissed the idea.
"It would have been a brief one-day hearing yesterday, and Judge Kavanaugh would have been reported out," he said. "There would have been no questions asked and no effort to highlight our differences."
Schumer said walking out would go against the "overwhelming consensus" of Judiciary Committee members.
Democrats "came to the conclusion that the best thing to do is be in the room and ask repeatedly about those documents, trying to get the hearing delayed or postponed at the very beginning, and I think it worked out very well," Schumer said.
Josh Nelson, another Credo Action co-director, made it clear that nothing less than unified opposition would be acceptable.
"We remain concerned that Sen. Schumer is not doing enough to unify his caucus in opposition to Kavanaugh," Nelson said, arguing Schumer would be under pressure "to step up and lead until every single Senate Democrat has made clear that they will vote to block Kavanaugh from being confirmed."