Senators question Kavanaugh on Day Two of confirmation hearings

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

It wasn’t hard to figure out where individual senators stood on the Kavanaugh nomination. Questions from members of the Judiciary Committee – 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats – followed expectations.

Generally, softballs from the right and commentary wrapped in questiona from the left, with the nominee scooping up the easy ones and pouring on the nuance and caveats on the stickier points.

Here’s some of what went on Wednesday.

Sen. Chuck Grassley: What makes a judge a good one, and what influences in your life have shaped your vision of how a judge should go about doing his job? 

Hon. Brett Kavanaugh: I think the first thing that makes a good judge is independence, not being swayed by political or public pressure. That takes some backbone, that takes some judicial fortitude. The great moments in American judicial history — the judges had backbone and independence. … Respect for precedent is another one. We are a system of constitutional precedent. Precedent is not just a judicial policy. It’s sometimes stated that it’s just a policy. Precedent comes right from Article 3 of the Constitution. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: What would you say your position today is on a woman’s right to choose?

Hon. Brett Kavanaugh: As a judge?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: As a judge.

Hon. Brett Kavanaugh:As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By it, I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Been reaffirmed many times. Casey is precedent on precedent, which itself is an important factor to remember. And I understand the significance of the issue, the jurisprudential issue, and I understand the significance as best I can. I always try, and I do hear of the real-world effects of that decision, as I try to do of all the decisions of my court and of the Supreme Court.

Sen. Orrin Hatch: Suppose you had a case involving President Trump, or an issue near and dear to the president, what assurances can you provide that you will not allow the president’s personal views on a case or personal interest to impact your decision?

Hon. Brett Kavanaugh: Senator, I’m an independent judge. For 12 years, I’ve been deciding cases based on the law and the precedent in each case. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, that’s how I’ll do it as well. I’ll be part of a team of nine. I’ll decide cases based on the Constitution, the law, the precedence, the Supreme Court — working with that, the other eight justices — without fear or favor, independently, without pressure from any quarter, and the person who has the best arguments on the law and the precedent is the person who will win with me.

Sen. Patrick Leahy: President Trump claims he has an absolute right to pardon himself. Does he?

Hon. Brett Kavanaugh: The question of self-pardons is something I have never analyzed. It’s a question that I have not written about. It’s a question, therefore, that’s a hypothetical question. 

The president, meanwhile, was asked about the hearings and Kavanaugh’s performance. He said he thought Kavanaugh performed brilliantly.

Donald Trump: I am, I’m happy with the Kavanaugh hearings. I watched today for a little while. I saw some incredible answers to very complex questions. He’s an outstanding intellect. He’s an outstanding judge. He was born for the position. I heard as long as 10 years ago, people were saying he should be a Supreme Court judge. I didn’t know him at the time, but I was hearing from a lot of people — friends of mine from Washington and other places, saying that Brett Kavanaugh should be a Supreme Court judge someday. And I’m honored that I gave him the chance. I’ve watched his remarks. I’ve watched his performance. I’ve watched his statements, and honestly, they’ve been totally brilliant. 

There were protests again, interrupting the proceedings, albeit briefly. Democrats on the committee, however, did not call for an adjournment, as they did repeatedly Tuesday.

In fact, the Committee seemed somewhat depleted, with several senators, including New Jersey’s Cory Booker, absent, attending to other Senate business. Booker’s staff said he was in and out of the hearing room and huddling with staff, going over his questions.

Senators had 30 minutes each for questions, although most took longer.

So the hearing is cutting into the dinner hour, and this round will probably continue into Thursday.

The next round of questions – 20 minutes for each senator – will follow Thursday and may go into Friday.