The U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh got off to a rocky start Tuesday, with demonstrators shouting against his appointment and minority Democrats losing a bid to delay the proceedings until thousands of pages of documents about Kavanaugh’s past work at the White House are made public.
Democratic lawmakers complained that White House officials under President Donald Trump are withholding the documents from the early 2000s when Kavanaugh served as a staff secretary to former Republican President George W. Bush. Democratic senators say they want to use the material to inform their questioning of the 53-year-old appellate court judge.
“I appeal to your sense of decency and fairness,” Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley in asking for a vote on a delay. But the Iowa Republican rejected as out of order Booker’s call, along with other Democratic senators, for any vote on whether to postpone the hearings until more documents are disclosed.
Grassley said more documents about Kavanaugh’s career in Washington are already available than for past Supreme Court nominees, along with 300 decisions he has written as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. After rejecting a hearing delay, Grassley offered his own opening statement as security officials ejected more demonstrators.
The Judiciary Committee has received 415,000 pages of documents about the Supreme Court nominee’s time in the Bush White House, of which 147,000 are being withheld from public release. In addition, Trump officials said they would not release 101,921 pages of Kavanaugh-related records to the panel because of the sensitivity of the communications. It turned over 42,000 pages on Monday night.
Kavanaugh introduced his family at the packed hearing room, but otherwise sat silent as Democrats unsuccessfully sought the delay.
In advance of the hearing, the White House released some of Kavanaugh’s opening statement he plans to make, in which he declared he would be an unbiased referee in deciding cases on the country’s highest court.
“A good judge must be an umpire — a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy,” Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh, nominated by Trump, declares, “I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. 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.”
Replacing Justice Kennedy
Íf confirmed by the Senate, Kavanaugh would replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate conservative who was a swing vote on the court, siding with its four liberals in key 5-4 rulings upholding abortion and gay rights and affirmative action to increase university admissions for racial minorities.
But independent court analysts believe Kavanaugh’s rulings on the federal appeals court in Washington indicate he would tilt the high court’s ideological balance toward conservative rulings for years to come.
Kavanaugh is expected to face tough questioning by the Judiciary panel, especially from Democratic lawmakers, on how he would decide new abortion and gay rights legal challenges, as well as the extent of the power of special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to thwart the criminal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
But Kavanaugh appears headed toward eventual confirmation by the full Senate. Republicans hold a 50-49 edge in the chamber, soon to increase to 51-49 when Republican John Kyl, a former Arizona senator, fills the seat of the late Sen. John McCain. No Republican has said they will vote against Kavanaugh, nor has any Democrat said they will vote for him, although a handful of Democratic lawmakers eventually might support his confirmation.
By: Ken Bredemeier