Fearful of losing Roe, left pushes Schumer for action

WASHINGTON — At least once a week, they assemble in Capitol meeting rooms for an hour-long strategy session. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer convenes the gatherings, which regularly include several Democratic senators, a dozen Senate aides and representatives of about 20 liberal organizations.

The goal: figuring out how to derail President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, conservative appellate judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Up to now, participants say the strategy sessions have been cordial. Yet with Senate Judici­ary Com­mittee hearings just two weeks off, cracks in the alliance are showing.

Schumer, D-N.Y., who plans to meet Kavanaugh privately early this week, is methodically building arguments that would help vulnerable Democratic senators in Trump-loving states vote “no,” while avoiding explicitly pressing them. But the party’s restive left wing says he’s not aggressively rallying Democratic lawmakers to oppose the nominee, thwarting the momentum needed to galvanize voters and maybe even win the uphill fight to block Kavanaugh.

“It’s really a test for Schumer,” said Elizabeth Beavers, associate policy director of Indivisible, an anti-Trump group. “Is he going to be the minority leader who lost Roe?” Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion rights.

“We’re looking to Sen. Schumer to unite the Democratic caucus to fight Kavanaugh,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director of the activist MoveOn.org. He said unless leaders unify the party and raise the battle’s visibility, the news media will focus on Trump nemeses like fired White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman and lawyer Michael Avenatti.

It’s the latest manifestation of the Democratic debate over how ideologically pure and confrontational the party’s strategies and candidates should be in resisting Trump and his hard-right stances. That battle has played out in Democratic congressional primaries around the country and in Congress, where left-wing lawmakers are pushing proposals like universal health care that other Democrats shun.

Democrats agree that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would tip the nine-member court to the right, threatening abortion rights, former President Barack Obama’s health care law and constitutional constraints on Trump’s actions as president.