Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch on Tuesday snapped at a protester during a feisty first day of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing.
“I don’t know that the committee should have to put up with the type of insolence taking place in this room today,” Hatch said after protesters attempted to shout over his prepared remarks.
"Mr. Chairman, I think we ought to have this loudmouth removed,” Hatch told Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, about one person in particular.
Hatch, himself a former Judiciary Committee chairman, was participating in his 15th Supreme Court confirmation. He argued that those disrupting the proceedings were “so out of line, they shouldn’t even be allowed in the doggone room.”
Some 70 protesters were arrested Tuesday after they repeatedly interrupted senators giving their opening statements about Kavanaugh’s nomination to fill retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the high court.
They were not the only ones who tried to disrupt the day’s proceedings.
Democrats — still livid over the fact Republicans denied one of President Barack Obama’s picks for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, even a hearing (The Senate later confirmed President Donald Trump’s choice, Neil Gorsuch, to the court) — attempted to halt the hearing, arguing the process was rushed. They want more time to review and obtain Kavanuagh’s records, including those associated with his former job as the staff secretary for President George W. Bush.
A lawyer for Bush released some 42,000 records Monday night, adding to more than 400,000 documents that have been turned over to the Judiciary Committee from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House and as a federal judge.
Republicans say those records amount to far more than ever produced for a nominee, but Democrats counter they represent only a tenth of the documents they’re seeking.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said records from Kavanaugh's tenure at the White House are pivotal to understanding how the nominee would approach cases coming before the Supreme Court.
“You yourself have said that that’s the ‘period of my greatest growth,’” Feinstein said as she looked at Kavanaugh. “And so we try to look at it. And the only way we can look at it is to understand the documents and it’s very, very difficult.”
Grassley shot down several requests from Democrats to adjourn the hearing and wait for more documents — and tempers flared.
“What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?” charged Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt.
Hatch, who has said he would “lift heaven and earth” to get Kavanaugh confirmed, insisted that the confirmation process has been the “most thorough” he has ever participated in.
“We’ve received more than twice as many documents for Judge Kavanaugh as for any Supreme Court nominee in our nation’s history,” Hatch said. “We have tens of thousands of pages of Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions, speeches and other writings. This has been an exhaustive process.”
Hatch added that Kavanaugh is an “indisputably qualified nominee with strong backing in the legal community who is well within the judicial mainstream.”
“Now, this being politics — and this being a Supreme Court confirmation hearing — my Democratic colleagues can’t admit that you’re actually a good judge, and a good person as well,” Hatch said. “They have to turn the volume up to 11 and try to paint you as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Anyone who actually knows you knows that’s ridiculous.”
Kavanaugh, in brief opening remarks, touted his 13 years on the bench as well as his appreciation for Kennedy, the outgoing justice who has been considered a key swing vote on the court. The nominee also said he wouldn’t be a partisan justice.
“A good judge must be an umpire — a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy,” Kavanaugh said. “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.”
Senators will start questioning Kavanaugh early Wednesday.
In some ways, Tuesday's hearing was more about the man who nominated Kavanaugh than about Kavanaugh.
“You are the nominee of President Donald John Trump,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said. “This is a president who has shown us consistently that he is contemptuous of the rule of law. He has said and done things as president which we’ve never seen before in our history. … It’s that president who has decided you are his man. You’re the person he wants on the Supreme Court.”
Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican who is on the Judiciary Committee and had been on Trump's short list for the Supreme Court, defended Kavanaugh and said he was “obviously qualified.”
“Even your staunchest critics would not claim otherwise,” Lee said. “You are independent. You’ve written that 'some of the greatest moments in American judicial history have been when judges stood up to the other branches, were not cowed, and enforced the law.' You’ve said that judges 'cannot be buffaloed, influenced, or pressured into worrying too much about transient popularity when we are trying to decide a case' and that 'one of the most important duties of a judge' is to 'stand up for the unpopular party who has the correct position.'”
Hatch and Lee are expected to vote for Kavanaugh.