Grassley, on heels of Kavanaugh confirmation, pushes dozens of judicial nominees

Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants the upper house to stay in session until all of the 49 currently pending judicial appointments are confirmed.

A tweet from Grassley, R- Iowa, on Thursday came just hours after the committee cleared eight more judicial nominees to the full Senate ,and puts Democrats in a bind over whether to stay in Washington to fight the confirmations or head out on the campaign trail to defend vulnerable seats ahead of the midterms.

“Lots of work to do,” Grassley tweeted. “Senate [should] stay in session til all 49 judges are CONFIRMED/ work comes [before] campaigning.”

Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have been at odds over finishing up nominees, with neither side willing to budge much following the grueling confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

McConnell was expected on Thursday to begin setting up votes on the judges and executive branch nominees for next week. While it is unclear for how many of the 49 picks McConnell plans to seek a pre-election deal with Schumer, the majority leader recently confirmed to Politico that he plans to follow his victory on Kavanaugh with more judicial confirmations before the midterms.

There’s also speculation that McConnell is intentionally being obstinate in an effort to keep vulnerable Democratic senators off the campaign trail this fall.

The fight over Kavanaugh has “energized our base like nothing else we’ve been able to come up with,” McConnell said. “If you look at where the competitive Senate races are, many of them are in states where this makes a huge difference.”

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is up for reelection this fall in a state where Trump is popular. When asked if McConnell was deliberately trying to tether vulnerable Democrats to Washington, Tester laughed and replied “I know you guys are smart enough to figure that out.”

There are some Democrats that argue with McConnell’s ability to use the post-election lame-duck session to push through more nominees, it makes little sense to keep vulnerable candidates inside the Washington Beltway just fight a short-term battle they are likely to lose.

"Holding senators in Washington for days in order to do one 15-minute vote doesn’t make much sense,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said.

But that doesn’t mean that Democrats plan to lay down on this issue, especially as the party’s liberal base is still seething over Kavanaugh’s confirmation over the weekend.

Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the caucus has "some pretty strong feelings about the whole issue now," but hedged a bit by saying that he "wouldn't presume to" speak for what Schumer might accept.

Schumer has yet to make his opinion on the matter known.

For Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who is perhaps the Democrat in the most vulnerable position with the midterms only a few weeks away, there is no question of where she is focusing her time.

“I need to be home, that’s what I’m going to tell you. I’m going to evaluate what these votes are," Heitkamp said. A recent Fox News poll has Heitkamp trailing her Republican challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer, by 12 points.

The Fox News poll also showed a Republican trend in the fight for the U.S. Senate in key battleground states.

Compared to early September, the number of Republicans feeling “extremely” interested in the upcoming election is up by 2 points in Arizona, up by 9 points in Indiana, up 8 points in both Missouri and North Dakota, and up 11 points in Tennessee.  In each state, Republicans are now just as likely as Democrats to say they are extremely interested - erasing an edge Democrats had in several states last month.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Dana Blanton contributed to this report.