Democrats Fail to Derail Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing Despite Pandemonium, Protests

Ivan Pentchoukov
By Ivan Pentchoukov
September 4, 2018Politicsshare

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee mounted a coordinated effort to derail the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 4, delaying the chairman’s opening remarks with more than an hour of out-of-order objections.

The interruptions, combined with shouting and screaming from hecklers in the audience, created a level of chaos that served to underscore the historical significance of Kavanaugh’s appointment and the effect his presence on the court may have in the years to come.

The Democrats repeatedly interrupted Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), demanding to see more documents on Kavanaugh, some of which have been blocked by the White House, citing executive privilege. Grassley, who struggled to maintain order but remained patient, countered that Kavanaugh, 53, has made more documents available for review than the five previous Supreme Court nominees combined.

President Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh on July 9, weighed in on the ruckus on the committee as Kavanaugh read his opening statement, before the meeting wrapped up for the day.

“The Brett Kavanaugh hearings for the future Justice of the Supreme Court are truly a display of how mean, angry, and despicable the other side is,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “They will say anything, and are only looking to inflict pain and embarrassment to one of the most highly renowned jurists to ever appear before Congress. So sad to see!”

News photographers clicked pictures of a smiling Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge, as he entered the hearing room along with his wife and two daughters. But moments after Grassley opened the session, Democrats interrupted the chairman, decrying the withholding of documents and continuously asking to have the proceedings adjourned.

Shrieking protesters also disrupted the hearing. They took turns yelling as senators spoke, with one shouting, “This is a travesty of justice,” while another shouted, “Our democracy is broken,” and a third urging, “Vote no on Kavanaugh.” Security personnel removed dozens of demonstrators from the room.

A heckler interrupts the proceedings
A heckler interrupts the proceedings during the first day of hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in Washington, on Sept. 4, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

“We cannot possibly move forward. We have not had an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) while interrupting Grassley, referring to the Sept. 3 release to the committee of 42,000 documents relating to the nominee’s work with past administrations.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) accused Democrats of trying to conduct the hearing by “mob rule.” Grassley ignored the Democrats’ request to halt the hearing, saying the demand was “out of order” and accused them of obstruction.

In total, the Democrats spoke out of turn and interrupted the hearing 63 times and complained about the withholding of documents 129 times, according to a tally kept by White House spokesperson Raj Shah.

Grassley noted that despite his staff being available around the clock to help Democrats access records, not a single Democratic senator showed up. Kavanaugh has produced more records to the committee than any other Supreme Court nominee in history, according to the chairman.

“The Democrats are focused on procedural issues because they don’t have substantive points strong enough to derail this nomination,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Republicans hold a slim Senate majority and can confirm Kavanaugh if they stay united.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called the hearing a “charade” and “a mockery of our norms.”

Republicans also have released some but not all of the existing documents concerning Kavanaugh’s two years as a lawyer in the White House Counsel’s office prior to becoming staff secretary.

If confirmed, Kavanaugh is expected to move the high court—which already had a conservative majority—further to the right. Senate Democratic leaders have vowed a fierce fight to try to block his confirmation. Democrats signaled that they would press Kavanaugh in depth on abortion and gun rights, among other issues, when they get to question the nominee.

Republicans have said that Democrats have more than enough documents to assess Kavanaugh’s record, including his 12 years of judicial opinions as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. They have accused Democrats of seeking to delay the hearing for purely political reasons.

Kavanaugh sat, fingers intertwined, quietly staring ahead at the committee members as audience members screamed while being dragged out of the hearing room.

Irked by a protester who interrupted him, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told Grassley, “Mr. Chairman, I think we ought to have this loudmouth removed. We shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of stuff.”

There is a long history of heated fights over U.S. Supreme Court nominations, with anger in both parties. But the Democratic frustrations that boiled over on Sept. 4 had been simmering for more than two years.

Democrats accuse Senate Republican leaders of stealing a Supreme Court seat by refusing to consider Democratic former President Barack Obama’s nominee to the high court, Merrick Garland, in 2016, allowing Trump to fill a Supreme Court vacancy instead.

Republicans also last year reduced the margin for advancing Supreme Court nominations from 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to a simple majority in order to force through the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first high-court nominee. In 2013, Democrats set the precedent for the Republicans’ move by lowering the confirmation vote margin to 50 votes for most other executive nominees.

‘An Umpire’

As the hearing eventually got underway amid constant interruptions from protesters, Grassley sought to turn attention to Kavanaugh’s qualifications, calling him “one of the most qualified nominees—if not the most qualified nominee—I have seen.”

The Senate is likely to vote on confirmation by the end of the month. The court begins its next term in October.

“A good judge must be an umpire—a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy,” Kavanaugh said in his opening statement at the tail end of the meeting. “I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences.”

“I revere the Constitution. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, I will keep an open mind in every case. I will do equal right to the poor and to the rich,” Kavanaugh said.

The hearing gave Democrats a chance to make their case against Kavanaugh ahead of November’s congressional elections, in which they are seeking to seize control of Congress from Trump’s fellow Republicans.

Liberals are concerned that Kavanaugh could provide a decisive fifth vote on the nine-justice court to overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide. Kennedy was a solid conservative but sided with the court’s liberals on some issues, including abortion and gay rights.

Kavanaugh also is likely to face questions about his views on investigating sitting presidents and the ongoing probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In 2009, Kavanaugh wrote a law review article saying presidents should be free from the distractions of civil lawsuits, criminal prosecutions, and investigations while in office.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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