For much of Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, the nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, sat quiet and expressionless.
Even before the nominee got a chance to make an opening statement, Democrats on the committee pounced, attempting a kind of group filibuster to delay and they moved to suspend the hearing.
They complained that no one could get through the mountain of documents released late Monday by the White House, and they complained that tens of thousands of other documents – from Kavanaugh’s time as White House counsel and staff secretary to George W. Bush – were either withheld or marked as “committee confidential,” meaning committee members could see them but not share them publicly.
Here’s a little bit of how day one of the hearings went:
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: Mr. Chairman, I move to adjourn. I ask for a roll call vote.
Sen. Chuck Grassley: We’re not in executive session. We will continue as planned.
Sen. Cory Booker: Mr. Chairman, may I be recognized, sir? Mr. Chairman, I appeal to the chair to recognize myself or one of my colleagues.
Sen. Chuck Grassley: You’re out of order.
Sen. Cory Booker: Mr. Chairman, I appeal to be recognized on your sense of decency and integrity. Even the documents you have requested, Mr. Chairman, even the ones that you said — the limited documents you have requested — this committee has not received. And the documents we have, you, sir, have labeled to be confidential. They should be transparent. This committee, sir, is a violation of even the values I’ve heard you talk about time and time again. The ideals that we should have. What is the rush? What are we trying to hide by not having the documents out front? What is with the rush? What are we hiding by not letting those documents come out?
Sen. Chuck Grassley: Senator, I’d like to respond to — I’d like to respond to Sen. Booker. Sen. Booker, I think that, I respect very much a lot of things you do. But you spoke about my decency — [protesters call out] You spoke about my decency and integrity. And I think you’re — I think you are taking advantage of my decency and integrity.
Sen. John Cornyn: I haven’t been in as many confirmation hearings as some of my colleagues, but this is the first confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice I’ve seen, basically, according to mob rule.
Sen. Orrin Hatch: Judge Kavanaugh is one of the most distinguished judges. [protester calls out] Mr. Chairman, I think we ought to have this loud-mouth removed. We shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of stuff. I hope she’s not a law student.
Sen. Chuck Grassley: These things are going to be said throughout this hearing. We’re going to be in session Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, until we get done this week. So, however long people want to take, we’re going to — not necessarily accommodate all obstruction — but if people got something to say, this chairman is going to let them say it. But it gets pretty boring to hear the same thing all the time. Sen. Booker, make it quick, please.
Democrats say they’re concerned about what Kavanaugh’s presence on the court will mean to abortion rights, presidential powers, election law, gun control and other issues.
As for the nominee, he got points for patience and, after sitting through the day’s political drama, Kavanaugh finally had a chance to speak.
Kavanaugh: Over the past 12 years, I’ve ruled sometimes for the prosecution and sometimes for criminal defendants. Sometimes for workers and sometimes for businesses. Sometimes for environmentalists and sometimes for coal miners. In each case, I followed the law. I do not decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I’m not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge. As Justice Kennedy showed us, a judge must be independent, not swayed by public pressure. Our independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic. In our independent judiciary, the Supreme Court is the last line of defense for the separation of powers and for the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. The Supreme Court must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution. The justices of the Supreme Court do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. They do not caucus in separate rooms. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, I would be part of a team of nine, committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States.
Questioning officially begins Wednesday. Senators will have 50 minutes each to ask questions, and then, if today is any indication, sometime this week, the committee will vote, 11-10 — that’s along party lines — to send this nomination forward, all but giving the president his second successful high court pick in two years.