Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing quickly devolved into a farce Tuesday morning with screeching protesters and Democrats demanding the committee be shut down immediately.
The rough beginning underscored the stakes this week for the Judiciary Committee, which was trying to begin four days of hearings on Judge Kavanaugh’s record — but ran into trouble as soon as the gavel was rapped to open proceedings.
“We cannot possibly move forward,” demanded Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat.
“I move to adjourn!” added Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat.
Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley shot him down, saying they weren’t even in executive session so they couldn’t vote to adjourn.
He also threatened to keep the committee in session through the weekend to finish the confirmation hearing if Democrats continue their interruptions and demands.
“If people got something to say, this chairman is going to let them say it. But it gets pretty boring to hear the same thing every time,” Mr. Grassley said.
Sen. John N. Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, asked Mr. Grassley whether senators would be allowed to interrupt each other in the hearing, and asked him about the ground rules.
“Proper respect and decorum, plus how we normally have done business in a hearing like this,” Mr. Grassley replied. “We wouldn’t be having all these motions. This is something I’ve never gone through before in 15 Supreme Court nominations. I want to be patient … but I don’t think we should have to listen to the same thing three or four times. I would like to have this be a peaceful session.”
Each Democratic objection to the proceedings drew cheers from the viewing gallery, which was stacked with protesters desperate to derail Judge Kavanaugh’s path to the high court.
President Trump nominated Judge Kavanaugh in July and the National Archives has been processing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents from his time in the 1990s working for the independent counsel investigating the Clintons and his time in the Bush White House.
Democrats, though, say there are millions of pages of documents still left in the archives from the judge’s time in the Bush White House that haven’t been requested.
Roughly an hour into the hearing, Democrats were still demanding a vote to adjourn the hearing, preventing the lawmakers and Judge Kavanaugh from making opening statements.
In total, Democrats interrupted the hearing more than 44 times during the first hour.
Mr. Grassley continued to deny their motion and demands.
Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican, suggested the interruptions by Democrats had been preplanned over the weekend during a conference with their party’s leadership.
“There was a phone conference yesterday,” admitted Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, saying they discussed many issues during the call.
“One of the issues was that over 100,000 documents related to Judge Kavanaugh have been characterize by the chairman of the committee as committee confidential,” he said.
Republican Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah said some Democrats on the committee are opposing Judge Kavanaugh because they’re running for president in 2020 and playing up to liberal interest groups.
“We have folks who want to run for president, who want their moment in the spotlight, who want that coveted TV clip,” Mr. Hatch said. “Frankly, I wish we could drop all the nonsense.”
Mr. Hatch added, “Unfortunately, we have all these interest groups screaming from the sidelines and putting pressure on my Democratic colleagues to make this hearing about politics, to make it pretty much about anything except Judge Kavanaugh and his qualifications.”
When a protester tried to shout down Mr. Hatch’s opening statement, the lawmaker commented, “I think we ought to have this loudmouth removed. We shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of stuff. I hope she’s not a law student.”
Moments later, more protesters shouted over Mr. Hatch even louder.
“Mr. Chairman, I don’t know that the committee should have to put up with this type of insolence that’s going on in this room today,” Mr. Hatch told Mr. Grassley.
“These people are so out of line, they shouldn’t even be allowed in the doggone room.”