POLITICS

Democrats Bring Fire To Brett Kavanaugh's Confirmation Hearing

They are demanding that Republicans delay hearings for the Supreme Court nominee so they can actually read tens of thousands of pages of documents they just got.
09/04/2018 10:28 AM ET
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Updated Sep 04, 2018

WASHINGTON ― Democratic senators came out swinging Tuesday against GOP efforts to quickly confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, demanding that Republicans delay the hearing so they have more time to review documents released last-minute related to his work.

Just hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing began, senators received 42,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s time working in President George W. Bush’s White House. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted that there was no way any senator would be able to read through all those papers before the hearing.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the committee, had barely begun to introduce Kavanaugh when Democrats pounced. 

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said the committee “cannot possibly proceed” without senators getting a chance to read the tens of thousands of new documents. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) chimed in that she agreed. Grassley continued talking over them, ignoring them, as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) accused Republicans of turning the hearing “into a charade and a mockery of our norms.”

“Mr. Chairman, if we cannot be recognized, I move to adjourn,” Blumenthal said to cheers and applause in the audience.

“This is a mockery and a travesty of justice!” shouted a woman in the audience, who was soon dragged out by security. “Cancel Brett Kavanaugh! Adjourn the hearing!” A second woman began shouting something about Kavanaugh and was also hauled out. The entire hearing came to a halt. 

This was just 10 minutes into the hearing.

A protester is carried out during Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing.
(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Code Pink protesters, a regular presence at Senate hearings, were some of the people taken out of the room Tuesday. The Center for Popular Democracy Action said it coordinated with the Women’s March to have a protest presence there as well, and they had about 70 people planning to risk arrest. 

Among the people arrested were actress Piper Perabo, UltraViolet co-founder Shaunna Thomas and Women’s March co-founders Linda Sarsour and Bob Bland.

If Democrats seemed especially organized, it’s because they were: Schumer convened a call with Judiciary Committee Democrats over the weekend to coordinate hearing strategy, according to a source familiar with the effort.

Even outside the hearing room, protesters were ready. Women dressed as handmaids from the dystopian novel and series “The Handmaid’s Tale” gathered in judgment in a Senate building Tuesday morning. Democratic senators met at the Supreme Court to hold a press conference Tuesday morning with their objections to Kavanaugh, and progressive groups plan to rally on Capitol Hill throughout the hearings this week. 

Women dressed as handmaids stood to protest Brett Kavanaugh.
(Brendan Smialowski via Getty Images)

Even with the newly released documents, senators are getting only a fraction of what’s available concerning Kavanaugh’s six years working for Bush as associate counsel and staff secretary. Independent archivists at the National Archives and Records Administration are currently going through 1 million records but won’t be done with their review until the end of October ― long after the August deadline imposed by Republicans, who want to confirm Kavanaugh before the midterm elections.

Republicans instead went directly to the Bush Presidential Library, which said it could conduct the process faster. Democrats have objected to this parallel process, noting that the review is being led by a team of Bush lawyers. Republicans have also resisted Democratic calls for the records from Kavanaugh’s time as White House staff secretary.

Grassley insisted that if Democrats had worked harder, they could have reviewed all the new documents once they came out. He said Republican staffers had indeed done so. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) noted that would have required someone reading 7,000 pages per hour.

“That’s superhuman,” said Whitehouse.

“They’re amazing!” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) replied. “They’re amazing!”