Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings, which are expected to last four days and likely end in his confirmation, got off to a surprisingly raucous start on Tuesday morning, with protesters interrupting the presiding Republican Senators and Democratic lawmakers joining in on the disruption. Here are the highlights so far:
Kavanaugh Finally Speaks
After a day of sitting in silence as Senators alternately extolled his virtues and held him up as a grave threat to America, Judge Brett Kavanaugh delivered his opening statement on late Tuesday afternoon. He kept things simple and non-controversial. As Ed Kilgore writes, Kavanaugh “did not delve deeply into constitutional theory beyond boilerplate conservative pledges to interpret rather than make law, and to serve (borrowing Chief Justice Roberts’s famous metaphor) as an impartial “umpire” in all cases.” Nor did he weigh in on any of the contentious issues he will likely face questions about in the coming days. Instead, he offered a set of platitudes (“I am an optimist. I live on the sunrise side of the mountain, not the sunset side of the mountain”) meant to reassure sitting Senators and the television audience that he is no radical – even if the truth is more complicated.
Dozens Charged With Disorderly Conduct
The final protester arrest numbers, according to the U.S. Capitol Police: 61 people were removed from the Judiciary Committee chambers and arrested for disorderly conduct, and another nine were charged with crowding and obstructing offenses amid protests on the second floor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
President Trump Weighs In
Someone wasn’t too happy with Tuesday’s proceedings.
Ben Sasse Decries “Hysteria” Directed at Kavanaugh
“It’s pretty obvious to people who are going about their work today that the deranged comments actually don’t have anything to do with you,” Sasse said, seemingly referring to the protesters and Democrats who had disrupted earlier sections of the hearing. Sasse went on to say that the Supreme Court nomination system had been broken since Robert Bork’s heated hearing in 1987, and that Tuesday’s “hysteria” was part of a larger, disturbing trend of treating judges as partisan politicians.
Mazie Hirono Tars Kavanaugh as Partisan Hack
The Hawaii Democrat went to town on the nominee, calling him a a “pre-selected political ideologue, nominated precisely because he believes a sitting president should be shielded from civil lawsuits, criminal investigation, & prosecution—no matter the facts.”
Grassley Tells Kavanaugh Not to Tip Hand on Abortion
Kavanaugh is expected to face pointed questions on abortion, which is likely to be the hottest-button topic of his hearings. With protestors dressed in Hamdmaid’s Tale garb assembled outside the Senate chamber, Senator Grassley advised Kavanaugh, who has said he admired William Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe v. Wade, not to reveal too much about his views on future cases. He told Kavanaugh to follow the so-called “Ginsburg rule,” after Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who famously declined to offer forecasts of her opinions on the matter during her 1993 confirmation hearing. As Irin Carmon has written, though, Ginsburg declared her support for abortion rights outright at those hearings, making for a strong contrast with the current nominee.
Sheldon Whitehouse Warns About the Direction of the Court
The Rhode Island Democrat said that the John Roberts-led Supreme Court already sided with Republican interests almost all the time, and that Kavanaugh’s appointment would just make things even more partisan, and more slanted toward corporate interests. Whitehouse labeled the five conservatives on the court in recent years – including Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh would replace – the “Roberts five.”
“In 73 partisan decisions where there’s a big Republican interest at stake, the big Republican interest wins every damned time,” he said.
Orrin Hatch Says Kavanaugh Likes to Eat Pasta With Ketchup
The Utah Senator tried to inject a little levity into the proceedings.
Kavanaugh Writes that He Will be “Pro-Law”
In his opening statement to the committee, Kavanaugh will keep things anodyne, telling Senators that “I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge,” according to excerpts released by the White House. He will emphasize his willingness to work with others, assuring his audience that “if confirmed to the Court, I would be part of a Team of Nine, committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States. I would always strive to be a team player on the Team of Nine.”
Kavanaugh will also broach Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee whom Republicans refused to give a hearing. Garland is the chief justice of U.S. Court of Appeals Kavanaugh currently serves on; Kavanaugh will call him a “superb” boss.
Protests Punctuate the Hearings
Within the first few minutes of the hearings, protests began shouting over Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, forcing him to begin his opening statement an hour later than expected. Demonstrators yelled remarks like “Cancel Brett Kavanaugh. Adjourn the hearing” and “An illegitimate president cannot make a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”
Removing the first batch of disruptive audience members did little to stop the cacophony, which Republican Senator John Cornyn referred to as “mob rule.” The interruptions continued well into the second and third hour of the hearings.
As of late morning, 22 protestors had been arrested.
Democrats Demand the Hearing be Adjourned Over Lack of Transparency
In what was reportedly a pre-planned, coordinated effort, several Democratic Senators — including Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Richard Blumenthal — spoke over Grassley to demand that the hearing be adjourned so that they could more thorough vet documents related to Kavanaugh’s years of work as a lawyer for the George W. Bush administration.
Grassley declined to do so, and the hearings continued.
Last week, in an unprecedented maneuver, the White House invoked executive privilege to shield more than 100,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s Bush years from public release. Then, on Monday night, the White House released 40,000 new pages of records, giving Democratic Senators almost no time to review them before Monday.
“What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?” said Senator Patrick Leahy, who called the hearing a “sham.”
Whatever’s in the documents are unlikely to change the minds of the vast number of Democrats, who were already going to vote no.