Need to Know: Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings Kick Off With Chaos
With millions of documents concerning the judge’s professional history either kept secret or released at the 11th hour, Democratic lawmakers wasted no time disrupting standard government procedure.
Published on September 5, 2018

Photo via Fox 10 Phoenix

President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, appeared for the first day of his Senate confirmation hearings on Tuesday, and was immediately met with stern chides and dramatic outbursts from Democratic legislators.

According to the New York Times, Kavanaugh’s handlers released hundreds of thousands of documents relating to the nominee’s years spent working for President George W. Bush just hours before Tuesday’s hearing, leaving senators little time to comb through the piles of paperwork. In addition to the thousands of pages that have now been disclosed, New York Magazine reports that there are literally millions of other documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s professional history that have yet to see the light of day.

Responding to what they decried as a lack of information and transparency, Democratic senators wasted no time disrupting the hearing process. As soon as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley began the day’s schedule, California Senator Kamala Harris interrupted the proceedings to call for an extended suspension of the hearing, citing the still-hidden documents. 

“We have not been given an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing on this nominee,” Senator Harris said at the outset of the session.

Senator Grassley refused to stall the proceedings, but that did not calm the afternoon’s tone. Instead, Democratic senators took turns offering their own rebukes to both Kavanaugh personally and the confirmation process itself. At the core of Democrats’ anger was Kavanaugh’s shifting position on presidential power, and whether he believes the commander-in-chief should be held to the same legal standards as other Americans. As President Trump continues to toe the legal line daily on his personal Twitter page, senators on the left side of the aisle repeatedly painted Kavanaugh as a partisan follower instead of impartial decision maker.

“You’ve taken the unorthodox position that presidents should not be burdened with a criminal or civil investigation while in office,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, addressing Kavanaugh directly. “Now we have a president who has declared in the last 24 hours that the Department of Justice shouldn’t prosecute Republicans,” Mr. Leahy said. “Now, it’s — it’s Alice in Wonderland. And I find it difficult to imagine that your views on this subject escape the attention of President Trump, who seems increasingly fixated on his own ballooning legal jeopardy.”

In addition to scheduled and unscheduled outbursts from Democratic senators, federal police arrested some 70 protestors both inside and outside of the court room for allegedly disturbing the hearing. Protestors repeatedly cheered after senators hounded Kavanaugh, with one faction of activists dressed as characters from the popular novel-turned television show The Handmaid’s Tale as a way to draw attention to Kavanaugh’s controversial opinions on abortion. 

During his own opening statement, Kavanaugh rejected the partisan characterizations, and said that, if confirmed, he would rule in the tradition of the man he was nominated to replace, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

“As Justice Kennedy showed us, a judge must be independent, not swayed by public pressure,” Kavanaugh said. “Our independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic. In our independent judiciary, the Supreme Court is the last line of defense for the separation of powers, and the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Because Tuesday’s hearings were only meant to cover opening statements, senators were unable to grill the conservative nominee about his feelings on Roe vs. Wade and other specific judicial precedents. Those questions will surely come to light as Kavanaugh returns to the hot seat on Wednesday.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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