Amid frequent heckling from the audience as Democrats attempted to adjourn, the opening of the Senate hearing Tuesday regarding the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh got so hot that Kavanaugh’s wife rushed the couple’s daughters out of the room.
“It was very unpleasant for young children,” an insider told the Washington Examiner, referring to Margaret, 13, and Liza, 10.
One heckler screamed: “This is a mockery. This is a travesty of justice. Cancel Brett Kavanaugh, adjourn the hearing.”
As soon as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa began spelling out the ground rules, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., interrupted, insisting the hearing “cannot possibly move forward” because 42,000 relevant documents were “dumped” Monday night.
Grassley ruled her “out of order,” but Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who moved to adjourn., was among Democratic colleagues who backed her up.
Sen. Cornyn, R-Texas, rebuked the Democrats, asserting they had turned the proceeding into “mob rule” and would be “held in contempt of court” if they behaved that way in a court of law.
Committee Democrats also complained about the Trump administration withholding some 100,000 pages of documents related to Kavanaugh’s tenure as White House staff secretary under President George W. Bush as “committee confidential.”
The Republicans argued Kavanaugh’s job was not to give his opinion to the president but to ensure that the chief executive received “well-rounded” counsel on any particular issue.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, charged further that Democrats already have made up their minds about Kavanaugh and are using the document issue to “distract and delay,” knowing the White House couldn’t comply because any such communications with the president are sensitive by nature and often matters of national security.
“Democrats complain about documents, but every one has committed to voted against him,” he said.
Cruz said the Democrats are trying to “relitigate the 2016 election,” contending Americans chose Donald Trump and his list of originalist judges from which he would choose Supreme Court nominees.
Grassley several times pointed out that Kavanaugh’s suitability for the nation’s highest court can be judged by his 307 opinions for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the documents submitted, which amount to five times the volume submitted for the five previous nominees combined.
Blumenthal charged that “no administration in the past has engaged in this kind of concealment.”
Sen. Mazie Hirano, D-Hawaii, objected to the characterization of White House staff secretaries as “traffic cops,” emphasizing Kavanaugh has called his service under President Bush the “most formative time” in his career.
Grassley responded that Kavanaugh will have opportunity to any answer questions about his White House service.
“How ridiculous it is to say that we don’t have the records it takes to determine that this person is qualified to serve on the Supreme Court,” he said.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., cited an NBC News tweet reporting Democrats had planned over the Labor Day weekend a “coordinated protest strategy” to “disrupt and protest” the hearing. And, the report said, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., later “led a phone call,” and committee members are “executing” the plan now.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., admitted he and other Democrats participated in the call.
“Mr. Chairman, there was a phone conference yesterday, and I can tell you, at the time of the phone conference, many issues were raised,” he said. “One of the issues was the fact that over 100,000 documents related to Judge Kavanaugh had been characterized by the chairman of the committee as committee confidential.”
Feinstein: Kavaugh ‘anti-choice and pro-gun’
When the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., finally made her opening statement, she spelled out the issues that animated her party’s base and the dozen or so activists who were removed from the hearing room for heckling.
Kavanaugh, she said, is “anti-choice and pro-gun,” and she told him, “Your rulings indicate you are willing to disregard precedent.”
“The impact of overturning Roe is much broader than protecting a woman’s right to choose,” said Feinstein, saying it would impact “a bulwark of privacy rights” related to “an individual’s right to make choices.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who more than once reminded the panel he had been in more Supreme Court justice hearings than any of his colleagues, listed abortion, same-sex marriage and torture as key issues.
He accused Trump and Republicans of “judicial activism,” saying the president chose Kavanaugh because he wants to overturn Roe and eliminate Obamacare.
And the Vermont senator accused Kavanaugh of misleading him regarding his service in the Bush White House during a hearing for Kavanaugh’s nomination to the D.C. court.
“Any claim that this has been a thorough, transparent process is downright Orwellian,” Leahy said.
Cornyn emphasized that Democrats already have made up their minds about Kavanaugh.
“It’s not because your opponents don’t know enough about you, it’s because they do know what they need to know about your confirmation,” he said.
At the end of Tuesday’s hearing – the first round of senators’ questions begins Wednesday – the nominee delivered his opening remarks, beginning with stating he was “impressed” by President Trump’s “careful attention to the nomination process and by his careful attention to the nominees.”
Kavanaugh praised his predecessor, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he clerked, calling him a personal hero and lover of liberty.
The nominee said his mother, who became a prosecutor and later a trial judge, was a “trailblazer” who taught him to “use your common sense, what rings true, what rings false.”
The title “Judge Kavanaugh,” he said, “will always belong to my mom.”
Kavanaugh said he’s proud of his service on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
He said he urges those assessing his fitness for the Supreme Court, “Don’t read about my opinions, read the opinions.”
He repeated his judicial philosophy of interpreting the law rather than making the law.
Kavanaugh cited Alexander Hamilton’s admonition that “the rules of legal interpretation are rules of common sense.”
A good judge, he said, must be an “umpire,” whose job is not to reach a preferred result but to follow the law.
“I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defense judge … I am a pro-law judge,” he said.
“I would be part of a team of nine, deciding cases according to the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” said Kavanaugh,
Citing Matthew 25 from the Bible, he said he tries “to serve the least fortunate among us.”
Kavanaugh said he looks forward to the rest of the hearing and answering the senators’ questions.
“I am an optimist. I live on the sunrise side of the mountain, not the sunset side of the mountain. I see the day that is coming, not the day that is gone,” he said.
“I am optimistic about the future of America. I am optimistic about the future of our independent judiciary.”
Kavanaugh concluded stating his reverence for the Constitution.
“I will keep an open mind in every case,” he vowed. “I will do equal right to the poor and to the rich. I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law.”