Sen. Orrin Hatch decries ‘dumbass’ partisanship over Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined from left by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, holds a news conference to refute Senate Democrats who are intensifying their fight over documents related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's stint as staff secretary at the White House, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Washington • Days after making a plea for more civility in public discourse, Sen. Orrin Hatch said Thursday he was tired of the “dumbass” partisanship surrounding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

We can’t keep going down this partisan, picky, stupid, dumbass road that has happened around here for so long,” Hatch said at a news conference where Republican senators berated their Democratic counterparts for demanding tens of thousands of documents Kavanaugh dealt with as staff secretary to then-President George W. Bush.

“I’m tired of partisanship,” Hatch declared, “and, frankly, we didn’t treat their candidates for these positions the way they’re treating ours.”

A former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has vowed to “lift heaven and earth” to confirm Kavanaugh, Hatch had steadfastly opposed holding a hearing for President Barack Obama’s pick to fill a high court vacancy with D.C. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland in 2016. Hatch had called Garland a “fine man” and said there “was no question” he could be confirmed to the Supreme Court before Obama’s announcement.

Hatch took the Republican Party line at the time that the confirmation process should wait until after the presidential election. Garland never got a hearing, and his nomination expired when Obama left office, allowing President Donald Trump to name Neil Gorsuch to the high court.

Hatch has scolded Democrats for their instant opposition to Kavanaugh before they had a chance to review his rulings or meet with him. For his part, the Utah senator released a video touting the nominee minutes after Trump announced the pick.

On Monday, Hatch wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal calling for Geneva Conventions-like guidelines for the culture wars. He was responding to recent events where White House officials were asked to leave or faced protesters at restaurants in the Washington area.

“While our politics have always been divisive, an underlying commitment to civility has usually held citizens on both sides together,” Hatch wrote. “As the partisan divide deepens, it becomes clear that we need to take meaningful steps toward de-escalation. Something must change before anger succumbs to violence.”

Hatch had made a similar call for civility last year, noting that he had said things in the past that he regretted but that “we must avoid this temptation.”

“Our words have consequences, and in an age of retweets, viral videos and shareable content, those words often echo well beyond their intended audience and context,” Hatch wrote in Time magazine. “It’s incumbent on all of us, then — from the president to Congress on down — to be responsible for our speech.”

In March, Hatch apologized after calling Obamacare the “stupidest, dumbass bill that I’ve ever seen,” and adding that supporters of the Affordable Care Act are “the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met.”

“Yesterday, I made a poorly worded joke about Obamacare supporters — a joke that was not reflective of my actual feelings towards my friends on the other side,” Hatch said a day later. "While I occasionally slip up, I believe that my legislative record reflects my commitment to bipartisanship and civility much more than my flippant, off-the-cuff comment.”

Also Thursday, Hatch wrote an op-ed for USA Today arguing that Democrats were treating Kavanaugh like they treated one-time Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, whose appointment the Senate rejected.

“Never mind that the reputation of a decent and honorable man lay in tatters — liberals had claimed their first scalp in the full-scale politicization of the Supreme Court confirmation process,” Hatch wrote. “So vicious and low was the left’s treatment of the good judge that a description of this behavior found its way into the everyday parlance: to Bork. To Bork public officials is to vilify them for political gain. It is to strip them of their humanity, tear their public image to shreds, and depict them as evil incarnate. It is to do to a person exactly what Democrats are attempting to do to Judge Brett Kavanaugh.”

Hatch’s office did not respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment.