Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat facing an increasingly tough path to re-election, told Fargo’s ABC affiliate today that she’s going to vote no on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation.
While the segment with the station hasn’t aired yet, Heitkamp says in the brief clip posted on WDAY’s website that “the process has been bad,” which, agreed. She also posted a longer statement on Twitter explaining her vote:
Heitkamp, who voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch last year, said that Kavanaugh is “different,” and that last Thursday’s hearing “called into question Judge Kavanaugh’s current temperament, honesty, and impartiality.” She went on to say:
There has been much public debate about Thursday’s hearing, and it has furthered a national discussion about stopping sexual assault that is long overdue, and we must continue to have. I have spent much of my time in public service—including as North Dakota’s Attorney General—focused on combating domestic violence and protecting women and children from abuse. Our actions right now are a poignant signal to young girls and women across our country. I will continue to stand up for them.
Dr. Ford gave heartfelt, credible, and persuasive testimony. It took great courage and also came at great personal cost. She had nothing to gain and everything to lose by coming forward with her deeply personal story. It was clear that she was testifying not because she wanted to, but because she felt it was her civic duty. When I listened to Dr. Ford testify, I heard the voices of women I have known throughout my life who have similar stories of sexual assault and abuse. Countless North Dakotans and others close to me have since reached out and told me their stories of being raped or sexually assaulted—and expressed the same anguish and fear. I’m in awe of their courage, too. Some of them reported their abuse at the time, but others said nothing until now. Survivors should be respected for having the strength to share what happened to them—even if a generation has since passed. They still feel the scars and suffer the trauma of abuse.”
Heitkamp’s revelation on how she’ll vote comes the same day that two Senate Republicans who were supposedly on the fence about whether to confirm an alleged sexual predator to the Supreme Court—Jeff Flake and Susan Collins—indicated they’re satisfied with the FBI’s sham investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh, while a third, Lisa Murkowski, still appears to be undecided. (Flake, an actual adult baby, also reportedly remains undecided on how he’ll actually vote.)
If everyone in the Senate GOP caucus still votes for Kavanaugh, Heitkamp’s no vote won’t stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation. And recent polls have shown that Heitkamp is down by as many as 12 points to U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, her opponent for re-election, although polls right before the 2012 election also projected her losing handily. And so, it would’ve been very easy for Heitkamp, an unabashed centrist who’s expressed openness in the past to switching parties, to vote for Kavanaugh in an attempt to save her ass. But surprisingly, she didn’t, in what will likely prove to be one of the most consequential votes of her entire career.
For Democratic senators in red states—Trump won North Dakota by 36 points, and the state hasn’t gone for a Democrat since 1964—the Kavanaugh vote really could end up the vote that makes or breaks their re-election races. A poll released by NPR yesterday suggested that the Democrats’ “enthusiasm” advantage heading into the midterms has all but disappeared in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearing as Republicans stir up their base with the same issue.
If Heitkamp loses her seat after this vote, it will still have been 1,000 percent the right move. There is absolutely no reason for a single Senate Democrat to vote to confirm a man accused of multiple sexual assaults, who would give conservatives a 5–4 majority on the court for years, likely resulting in a reversal of Roe v. Wade, and who all but took a dump on the Senate Democrats’ authority to ask him questions during last Thursday’s hearing. To vote for Kavanaugh—this man, who believes these things, under these circumstances—is pure cowardice.
Heitkamp’s announcement, combined with Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana’s statement last week that he would also vote against the nominee, puts added pressure on the enormously shitty Joe Manchin to do the same, as Manchin is the only Senate Democrat remaining who voted for Gorsuch but hasn’t made their position on Kavanaugh public. Manchin is in much better shape than either Heitkamp or Donnelly heading into the midterms and also told Chuck Schumer back in July to “kiss my you know what” if he even had any illusions about trying to convince Manchin not to vote to put a reactionary Bush hack on the Supreme Court.
Manchin might not give a shit about what Schumer thinks, but Heitkamp just made his decision a lot harder.