Democratic members of the panel overseeing Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination interrupted the hearing and protesters injected chaos as Chairman Charles E. Grassley attempted to start the proceedings.
“We have not been given an opportunity to have a fair hearing,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a potential 2020 presidential candidate.
Then came Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who called for the hearing to be ended immediately.
“Mr Chairman, if we cannot be recognized, I move to adjourn,” Blumenthal said. “We have been denied access to the real documents that we need,” he added, calling the session a “charade and mockery of our norms.”
Another potential Democratic candidate, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, told Grassley the White House has yet to turn over documents that the chairman had requested.
“I think we ought to give the American people the chance to hear whether Judge Kavanaugh should be out the [Supreme] Court or not,” Grassely said as protesters continued to yell their objections as they were escorted out of the hearing room
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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., questioned the chairman on why an executive privilege claim by the White House over hundreds of thousands of documents were not being challenged by the committee. Grassley shot back that “this assertion is not accurate,” citing a previous Supreme Court decision stressing the need for presidential aides to give a chief executive confidential and candid advice.
White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told Roll Call he thinks it is “worth noting just how outrageous and unprecedented this outburst is.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas took umbrage with Whitehouse’s contention the committee should operate as a court of law, saying if it did, the objecting Democratic members already would have been held in contempt of court.
As Democratic members continued voicing their objections, Shah used a tweet to dub the opening minutes a “Democrat tantrum,” writing they had so far made “well over a dozen references to documents, and ZERO references to Judge #Kavanaugh cases, votes or record as a judge for the past 12 years.”
Chaos broke out again at 10:08 a.m. when Blumenthal and yet another possible 2020 Democratic candidate, Amy Klobuchar, pressed Grassley to hold a vote on his motion to adjourn. Protestors again erupted as the hearing stalled — before it had really began. “What would it hurt to hold a vote on the motions before us?” Booker asked before the chairman ignored him.
Capitol Police said, as of 10:20 a.m., 22 people had been arrested for their actions inside the hearing room.
Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois said 42,000 page of Kavanaugh’s Bush White House papers that were released Monday evening “added insult to injury” because the Democratic side lacked ample time to review them.
Grassley told Democrats he has no intention to honor one of their motions, and asked them at the one-hour mark how long they wanted to proceed with their objections.
Booker continued in the second hour as one of the minority side’s most persistent members in calling for a delay, saying senators only have access to 10 percent of the nominee’s record from his time in the Bush administration.
California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s ranking Democrat, once proceedings got underway, raised concerns about Kavanaugh’s stances on abortion rights and gun rights.
“We believe you are willing to disregard precedent. Just saying something is settled law isn’t saying it’s correct law,” she said of Kavanaugh’s stance on Roe vs. Wade.
Feinstein contended that overturning Roe could open the door to other laws and court rulings on “protections against government intrusion” being rolled back “I believe all of these cases serve as a bulwark of … privacy,” she told Kavanaugh in her opening statement. “To me, that’s extraordinarily important.”
She also zeroed in on his time as Bush’s White House staff secretary, noting the nominee’s statement that that stint allowed him to grow professionally – but saying senators cannot learn about that growth without seeing more documents from that time.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, responded to Democrats’ remarks by saying Grassley has overseen the most transparent and comprehensive confirmation process he has seen during his 41-year Senate career. He dubbed Kavanaugh a “great nominee.”
As a protester yelled during his opening statement, Hatch asked that the “loudmouth” protester be removed. “I hope she’s not a law student,” an agitated Hatch quipped.
Hatch described the nominee as well with the judicial “mainstream,” and noted even some left-leaning legal experts have said so.
The veteran GOP senator accused Democratic members with trying to make the hearing about “anything but Judge Kavanaugh and his qualifications.” He also said the potential 2020 candidates are only out for “that coveted” sound byte.
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