Since I write about politics for a living I end up on a lot of political email lists. I also have a lot of political emails forwarded to me. Which I don’t mind since it allows me to kind of monitor the zeitgeist of campaign messaging in a given moment.
Today a reader forwarded me a fundraising email sent out by Heidi Heitkamp, whose campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate was defeated by current Senator Kevin Cramer last year. Heitkamp is flogging for dollars on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
In her pitch, she asks for funds to help Democrats win elections so they can block any more appointments of “ultra-conservative” judges to the federal bench.
“One year ago, I cast my vote against Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. I know that casting that vote wasn’t the easy thing to do, but it was the right thing, and I firmly believe it was one of the most important votes I ever took,” Heitkamp writes in the email. “And since then, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have used their power to pack our courts with even more ultra-conservative judges. They’ve put the future of Roe v. Wade at risk and threatened health care coverage for tens of millions of Americans. And they’ve put the interests of giant corporations ahead of American workers, farmers, and families.”
That sounds awful, right?
But how awful can these judges really be when Heitkamp actually voted for almost all of those judges nominated during President Donald Trump’s first two years in office?
The folks at Quorum have documented how each U.S. Senator in the 115th Congress – convened from January 3, 2017, to January 3, 2019 – voted on judicial nominees. During that time there were 32 judges approved out of 69 nominations. Three were approved by a voice vote, meaning we have no record of how each Senator voted, and the other 29 passed with roll call votes.
Of that 29, Heitkamp voted for 21 of them. She voted against 7 others, including the Kavanaugh vote she references, and she missed one vote. As you can see from this Quorum chart only two other Democrats in the Senate at the time – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana – voted for more of President Trump’s appointees (click for a larger view):
Did Heitkamp really believe in her heart that those judges were awful people? Did she only vote to approve them for the sake of political expediency, namely getting re-elected in a red state where Trump is popular?
Or is she just blowing partisan smoke now as a way to ingratiate herself to the progressive base in furtherance of her post-Senate career?
Neither conclusion is all that flattering.
Speaking of unflattering voting records, get a look at this chart of Heitkamp’s missed votes from her term in office put together by GovTrack. It seems, once Heitkamp became a lame duck, she kind of bailed on her Senate duties:
Here’s the full email: