At the opening day of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing for a lifetime appointment to a Supreme Court seat, things did not go according to plan for the Republican senators who hold the majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It only took about 30 seconds for the hearing to descend into chaos.
“I welcome everyone to this confirmation hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve –” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) began, before a cavalcade of Democratic interruptions cut in.
“Mr. Chairman, I would like to be recognized for a question before we proceed,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) interjected. “Mr. Chairman, I would like to be recognized to ask the question before we proceed. The committee received just last night less than 15 hours ago …”
Sen. Grassley interrupted to ask for order, but Harris pressed on.
“Thousands of documents that we have not had a chance to read or review or seen,” Harris said. Grassley again ruled her out of order, banging his gavel. “I will proceed,” he said. Harris said “we cannot possibly move forward Mr. Chairman.”
“I offer a very warm welcome to Mr. Kavanaugh, to his wife, their two daughters,” Grassley began again, attempting to begin the hearing.
“Mr. Chairman, I agree with my colleague Senator Harris,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). “Mr. Chairman, we received 42,000 documents that we have been unable to review last night, and we believe this hearing should be postponed.”
“Mr. Chairman, if we cannot be recognized, I move to adjourn,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) added after Grassley again tried to cut off the Democratic senators.
Just then, protesters in the hearing room began shouting, providing a calamitous backdrop for the hearing scheduled to take place.
One by one, each Democrat in the room argued the hearing should be postponed until Kavanaugh’s outstanding documents could be turned over, or until the committee members had more time to review the thousands of documents that had been provided to them just the night before Tuesday’s hearing.
Grassley, alternately flustered and stone-faced, was unable to stop them for over an hour.
The nomination process had been contentious and secretive prior to Monday evening, when it got even more so. Senators received 42,000 documents — just a portion of the documents from Kavanaugh’s tenure in the Bush White House — with little time to examine them before Tuesday morning’s 9:30 a.m. hearing start time.
“This underscores just how absurd this process is,” tweeted Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “Not a single senator will be able to review these records before tomorrow.”
Senate Democrats focused on this tension point over the documents in an attempt to prevent the Senate from considering Kavanugh’s nomination on Tuesday morning. The spectacle varied between technical fights over whether or not motions to adjourn are considered out of order, and emotional outbursts of “Release the documents!” and “Vote no on Justice Kavanaugh!” from the audience.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) made the case that Kavanaugh’s documents should be made available to the committee and that the White House’s claims of “executive privilege” to prevent their release are insufficient and invalid.
“I don’t understand,” Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) said after an extended argument about these points. “It won’t take that much time. What is the rush? What are we afraid of? To hold a vote on the motions before us?”
Grassley had no answer.
Later on, the cracks began to show. “Senator Hirono, I ask that you stop so we can conduct this hearing the way we have planned it,” Grassley said — laying bare the Republican strategy to jam Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court no matter what.
At one point, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) accused his colleagues of engaging in “mob rule.”
Halfway through the morning, the White House began to count the number of times Democratic senators had interrupted the proceedings.
The White House is highlighting how many times Democrats have interrupted during the Kavanaugh hearing. pic.twitter.com/obxaLfvuNZ
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) September 4, 2018
After an hour and a half of raucous debate over whether the hearing should take place as planned given the lack of transparency exhibited by the administration’s handling of Kavanaugh’s records, the hearing did eventually proceed — with senators giving opening statements punctuated by protesters being led out of the room.
The Democrats in the room didn’t let up on their pushback, however.
“90 percent of the documents we have not seen,” Booker said as the hearing progressed. “We would not hire an intern with only 90 percent of their resume. And we’re putting somebody on the Supreme Court.”
Kavanaugh has historically low support for Supreme Court nominees, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll released Tuesday morning, which found that 38 percent supported him and 39 percent opposed him.
He will almost certainly vote to overturn Roe. v. Wade. He will also very likely defer to the Trump administration’s overreach and efforts to protect itself from legal jeopardy. He will likely provide another vote to neuter the Voting Rights Act.