Democrats sought to take control of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing Tuesday, pressing Republicans to adjourn the hearing on President Donald Trump’s nominee and interrupting the judiciary chairman dozens of times as multiple activists on the left disrupted the proceedings.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer helped coordinate the Democrats’ strategy despite not serving on the Judiciary panel, convening a call with the committee’s minority members over the weekend, according to a source familiar with the planning.
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The volley of Democratic interjections began after Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) attempted to open the high-stakes four-day hearing. Grassley attempted to speak over Democrats even as they sought a vote on a motion to adjourn the hearing, acknowledging that "maybe it’s not going exactly the way the minority would like it to go."
One after another, Democrats repeatedly intervened in the opening minutes, breaking into their protests to allow Kavanaugh to speak before resuming their push to stop the process until they can examine more records. More than 42,000 pages of documents were released late Monday night on a "committee confidential" basis, preventing their public release and likely stopping Democrats from citing them during the hearing.
After repeated interruptions from anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators who were escorted from the hearing room by police, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) suggested that Democrats would be held in "contempt of court" — drawing quick pushback from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — and likened the moment to “mob rule.”
Grassley flatly ruled out Democrats’ repeated calls for an adjournment vote, but the fireworks at the start of the hearing already had set the tone for a raucous week to come.
The White House sent a tally of the number of times each Democrat had interrupted Grassley during the first hour of the hearing, for a total of 44 interjections.
Kavanaugh is expected to ultimately get confirmed, with the Senate headed towards a return to 51-49 GOP control following the imminent appointment of an Arizona Republican to replace the late Sen. John McCain. But Democratic senators are still readying an intense volley of questions for the 53-year-old appeals court judge, focusing on his stance towards an ongoing challenge to Obamacare, the future of Roe v. Wade, and his already-expressed skepticism about criminal investigations of sitting presidents.
Democrats have offered few indications that they’re prepared to attempt a formal boycott of the Judiciary hearing to channel their ire over the withholding of hundreds of thousands of pages of Kavanaugh-related documents from public release, although their in-person protest Tuesday morning was clearly designed to achieve that end.
"We will attend the meetings. We will question assiduously. But we want to express our concerns,” the Judiciary panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, told reporters alongside her fellow minority-party members at a brief gathering on the Supreme Court steps before the hearing opened.
The Trump administration last week cited executive privilege in order to shield more than 100,000 pages of records from Kavanaugh’s time in George W. Bush’s White House counsel’s office, infuriating the minority.
Before the surprising series of interruptions began, Kavanaugh was expected to tell senators that he’s committed to being a “neutral and impartial arbiter," adhering to the Constitution and existing law, if he wins confirmation in the coming weeks. In remarks released by the White House, President Donald Trump’s nominee described himself as a player on the high court’s “Team of Nine.”
"A good judge must be an umpire — a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy,” Kavanaugh is slated to say. “I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”
Liberal activists were readying their own show of force against Kavanaugh. Women dressed in the red-and-white garb made famous by the dystopian novel "Handmaid’s Tale" gathered outside the hearing room, demonstrating against Kavanaugh’s potential to rule against abortion rights. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was among several committee members in both parties acknowledging the difficulty of speaking over the demonstrators, quipping that “we ought to have this loudmouth removed” after a woman cried out about protecting pre-existing conditions.
Capitol Police charged 22 protesters with disorderly conduct within the first hour of the hearing, a spokeswoman said. Authorities removed additional demonstrators as the hearing progressed.
Kavanaugh spent five years in the Bush White House, serving as staff secretary in addition to his service in the counsel’s office — although Republicans only attempted to seek documents from the latter position, not the former. He also played a prominent role in drafting the Starr Report on former President Bill Clinton.
In his opening statement, Kavanaugh also notably plans to name-check Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court who was stonewalled by Republican senators ahead of the 2016 election. Garland is currently a colleague of Kavanaugh’s on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
"I have served with 17 other judges, each of them a colleague and a friend, on a court now led by our superb chief judge, Merrick Garland," Kavanaugh is due to say.
That gesture was bound to fall on deaf ears with Democrats who view the entire confirmation process as unnecessarily hurried to get Trump a second seat on the high court in two years.
“When Justice Scalia died, Republicans refused to even meet – even a meeting in their office – with President Obama’s nominee and held the seat open for one year,” Feinstein said in her opening statement. “Now, with a Republican in the White House, they’ve changed their position.”
While Democrats recognize their limited power to stop Kavanaugh’s nomination, they’re still using the confirmation process to score political points, especially given the stakes — Kavanaugh would likely bend the court significantly to the right, given that he’s replacing retired justice Anthony Kennedy, who long served as a swing vote.
Published at Tue, 04 Sep 2018 12:08:26 +0000