WASHINGTON — Between outbursts from protesters and outrage from Democrats, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee got off to a rough start Tuesday.
The fight over Kavanaugh's record is intensifying after the Trump White House decided to withhold more than 100,000 pages of documents over the weekend, citing Constitutional privilege. The documents cover Kavanaugh's time working for President George W. Bush as White House counsel, which the candidate has said were his most formative.
Democrats also tried in vain to postpone the hearing, saying they received 42,000 pages of documents less than 15 hours before its early-morning start, and needed time to prepare.
“You are the nominee of Donald John Trump. This is a President who has shown us consistently that he is contemptuous of the rule of law," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said. “You're the person he wants on the Supreme Court. You are his personal choice. So are people nervous about this? Are they concerned about it? Of course they are.”
Senators who have sat through prior confirmations say this is one has been a little different. Protestors continually interrupted the hearing after it began, while Senators argued among themselves.
"I am disappointed that despite his exemplary qualifications and outstanding record, so many of our colleagues across the aisle have announced their opposition even before he was nominated,” said John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Republicans argue this has been the most thorough confirmation hearing to date, despite outcries from Democrats for hearings to move forward.
“I know a good nominee when I see one and you are a great nominee,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). “You volunteer in the community, you coach youth basketball, you're the sort of person many of us would like to have as a friend and a colleague. You also apparently like to eat pasta with ketchup, but nobody's perfect."
Once the hearing was underway, Kavanaugh sat quietly and took notes for hours before addressing the room. In his opening statements, Kavanaugh called Justice Kennedy a mentor, a friend and a hero, saying the Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution.
“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,” Kavanaugh said.
Senators won’t get to question Kavanaugh until Wednesday. He’ll be asked about his view of executive power, including the ability to investigate a sitting president, and of course Roe v. Wade. In his statements Tuesday, Kavanaugh frequently referenced the most influential women in his life, including his mother, a prosecutor.
“She taught me that good judges must always stand in the shoes of others. The Chairman referred to me today as Judge Kavanaugh. But to me, that title will always belong to my mom,” Kavanaugh said.
President Donald Trump tweeted throughout the afternoon, saying the hearings show how, “mean, angry, and despicable” Democrats are. He called Kavanaugh an exceptionally qualified and deserving nominee for the court.