Senate Democrats haven’t had private meetings with Judge Brett Kavanaugh in his first two weeks as a Supreme Court nominee, and aren’t likely to until there is progress on getting access to his lengthy paper trail about his prior political work.
Democrats want assurances that the National Archives will agree to send to the Senate Judiciary Committee volumes of documents about Kavanaugh’s past, which includes a lengthy tenure in the George W. Bush White House, a senior Senate Democratic aide said Thursday. And they want to know that the document access won’t be thwarted by claims of executive privilege.
Democrats have compared the Kavanaugh case to that of Justice Elena Kagan, in which Republican senators wanted to review myriad documents from her time in the Clinton administration. At one point during that debate, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama suggested he and the Republicans might boycott the Kagan hearings.
“Before Democrats commit to meeting with the nominee, we want to see a real commitment and progress towards providing the same information and documents to the Senate that Kagan did,” the Democratic aide said.
The White House, when asked why Kavanaugh had not yet met with any Democrats, hinted Thursday that it had tried to schedule a meeting with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “Judge Kavanaugh is eager and willing to meet with as many senators as are willing to meet with him,” spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.
And Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, said Thursday that she hadn’t met with Kavanaugh because of a scheduling issue with Schumer. “He was going to meet with Schumer first,” Feinstein said.
The members of the Judiciary Committee debated Kavanaugh’s voluminous paper trail during a business meeting Thursday. Democrats insisted they review all relevant documents to properly vet the nominee, while Republicans expressed concern that it would become a time-consuming fishing expedition to delay the confirmation process.
Schumer has made reference to the Democratic demands in several floor speeches, including on July 10.
“The Senate must now be able to have access and time to adequately review all documents, emails, and other paperwork associated with Judge Kavanaugh before the process moves forward. Judge Kavanaugh’s papers may be critical to helping the American people understand the kind of jurist that Judge Kavanaugh would be on the Supreme Court,” Schumer said. “And if that makes us take a little more time, so be it.”
Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said he intends to stick to the timeline of the Kagan and Neil Gorsuch confirmations and complete work within 70 days, even with the amount of records in Kavanaugh’s past.
“Many Democrats announced their opposition to this nominee before the vetting process ever began,” Grassley said in a news release. “They’ve made clear that their plan will be to obstruct and delay at every corner, and reviewing Judge Kavanaugh’s record will be no different.”
Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s pick to fill Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s seat, started his Capitol Hill charm campaign last week as expected, with those most important to his confirmation process, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Grassley.
Kavanaugh has now met with, or at least been scheduled to meet with, around 20 Republicans, even some with no ties to the Judiciary Committee.
Watch: Senate Democrats Rally Against Kavanaugh at Supreme Court