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There was no shortage of fireworks in the Senate Judiciary Committee during the first day of the confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who has received a "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association. Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) hadn’t even completed the first sentence of his opening statement before Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) interrupted, beginning nearly 90 minutes of obstruction by Democrats who serve on the committee and frequent outbursts from protestors in the audience.
Democrats’ behavior was, of course, planned chaos. After the hearing began, it was reported that Democrats on the committee spoke with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and “plotted [a] coordinated protest strategy over the holiday weekend and all agreed to disrupt and protest the hearing.” It was initially effective, although the committee eventually returned to order.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) moved that the committee adjourn while Sen. Harris made a motion to postpone the hearing. Sen. Blumenthal’s motion was seconded but was ruled out of order.
Chairman Grassley said that the motion only applies when in a closed-door executive session, a statement that has been disputed by James Wallner of the R Street Institute. Even if the motions made by Sens. Blumenthal or Harris were considered, Democrats are in the minority and would have lost the vote. But that wasn’t the point; they wanted to stall.
Although the strategy of protest was chosen over the Labor Day weekend, Democrats spent the beginning of the hearing focused on a tranche of documents released by President George W. Bush’s lawyer on Monday and the roughly 102,000 pages of documents over which the White House claimed executive privilege.
The committee has released tens of thousands of pages of documents related to Counselavanaugh’s work in the Office of the Independent Counsel during the investigation of President Bill Clinton and in his service in the White House Counsel’s office between 2001 and 2003. Chairman Grassley indicated that some 400,000 pages had been received by the committee. Documents related to Judge Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary are what the White House won’t release.
As staff secretary, Judge Kavanaugh oversaw the delivery of documents to President Bush. The person in this role essentially determines what memos and other documents a president will see. He or she may also write documents for a president. Give the time of his service, between, 2003 and 2006, Judge Kavanaugh may have authored memos on important topics related to national security and domestic policy.
Of course, Judge Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary has already been explored by the Senate Judiciary Committee. During his confirmation hearing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, often called the second most important appellate court in the country, Democrats focused on Judge Kavanaugh’s time in this post.
Judge Kavanaugh was asked about whether he knew of the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping program and torture. Neither were part of his docket of work, he said under oath, and wasn’t aware of them until they were reported in the news. One of the more controversial issues that Judge Kavanaugh dealt with during his time as staff secretary were presidential signing statements, in which President Bush occasionally interpreted language in bills that he signed into law.
Although Democrats spent much of the first 90 minutes of the hearing focused on the documents released by President Bush’s lawyer, Republicans on the committee completed their review of them by late Monday evening.
Democrats’ posturing over Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination may rile up their base, but it also hollow. Every Democratic member of the committee is on record in opposition to Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, in most instances, long before any documents were released, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) noted during his opening statement.
Although the Supreme Court is moving in a more center-right direction with Judge Kavanaugh, it will not be the radical conservative Court that most Democrats and progressive activists claim it will be. As we were so often told by President Barack Obama, elections have consequences. Like it or not, Donald Trump won the election in 2016 and Republicans control the Senate. Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed.