Images from Capitol Hill this week have featured a new backdrop behind senators — police officers, who have been assigned to protect lawmakers from violent protests as they walk the halls of their office buildings.
One Republican senator was hounded at a restaurant, while police briefly shut down the hallway in front of another Republican’s office Wednesday and reportedly started ferrying a senator in official police vehicles for her protection.
The security has grown with the protests over Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, whose confirmation process has drawn the attention of the nation and sparked massive resistance from anti-Trump activists. They have posted senators’ home addresses and personal phone numbers online, visited offices and blocked one senator from being able to get to his car.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday called them bullies and said it’s got to stop.
“We’ll not be intimidated by these people. There’s no chance in the world they’re going to scare us out of doing our duty,” the Kentucky Republican said on the chamber floor.
Hallway confrontations with senators, meanwhile, have become must-film events for cable news networks.
Just ahead of a key committee vote last week, two protesters caught Sen. Jeff Flake as he was boarding an elevator and, as CNN’s cameras rolled, they accused the Arizona Republican of trying to silence sexual assault victims by supporting Judge Kavanaugh.
Hours later, Mr. Flake voted to advance the judge’s nomination, but also demanded final action be put off until an FBI investigation could be concluded — a major victory for Democrats.
The FBI report was expected to be finished at any moment, but even beforehand Democrats were saying they doubted it would be the full probe they want to see. Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Judge Kavanaugh of a sexual assault when they were at a high school party in 1982, said she hadn’t been interviewed.
Late Wednesday, Democrats raised new objections, hinting that there was evidence of problems in previous background FBI checks for Judge Kavanaugh and demanding those be probed. Republicans dismissed that as “baseless innuendo.”
Those sorts of exchanges have only deepened the public’s divide over the nomination.
Democrats have cheered on those opposing Judge Kavanaugh.
“The energy we saw around Kavanaugh last week was truly inspiring. We must sustain that level of pressure heading into the fights ahead. Write, protest, and call, call, call. Too much is at stake,” tweeted Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat, on Monday.
She and California’s other Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein, are vehement opponents of Judge Kavanaugh. Seeking to gain an edge, state Sen. Kevin De Leon, another Democrat and Ms. Feinstein’s opponent in the November election, said Wednesday he’s getting supporters to make calls into Alaska to lobby a key Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Ms. Murkowski, Mr. Flake and Sen. Susan Collins are the three GOP lawmakers still uncertain about their vote, joining two Democrats, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin III.
“There’s been an increase in people screaming at you and as a result, we’ve gotten some additional help,” Sen. John Kennedy told The Washington Times. “It’s worse for Judiciary Committee members, but I know Sen. Collins is having a lot of trouble — she can hardly leave her home.”
The hallway in front of Ms. Collins’ Senate office was shut down briefly Wednesday, sparking complaints from reporters who had been staking out the doorway.
According to NBC News, Ms. Collins was also seen leaving Capitol Hill in a police vehicle last week.
Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, has had to battle off protesters back home at his Charleston office.
A number of news outlets reported Tuesday the senator’s office had to call police after more than a dozen women staged a sit-in demanding he announce his opposition to Judge Kavanaugh.