SEVERE WX : Air Stagnation Advisory View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Rancorous, Partisan Start for Kavanaugh High Court Hearing

The week of hearings on Kavanaugh's nomination began with a sense of inevitability that the 53-year-old appellate judge eventually will be confirmed, perhaps in time for the new term on Oct. 1 and little more than a month before congressional elections.

Posted: Sep 4, 2018 4:40 PM

By MARK SHERMAN and LISA MASCARO , Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh declared fervently at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday the court "must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution." But that was at the end of a marathon day marked by rancorous exchanges between Democrats and Republicans, including dire Democratic fears that he would be President Donald Trump's advocate on the high court.

The week of hearings on Kavanaugh's nomination began with a sense of inevitability that the 53-year-old appellate judge eventually will be confirmed, perhaps in time for the new term on Oct. 1 and little more than a month before congressional elections.

However, the first of at least four days of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee began with partisan quarreling over the nomination and persistent protests from members of the audience, followed by their arrests.

Strong Democratic opposition to Trump's nominee reflects the political stakes for both parties in advance of the November elections, Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump's 2016 campaign and the potentially pivotal role Kavanaugh could play in moving the court to the right.

Democrats, including several senators poised for 2020 presidential bids, tried to block the proceedings in a dispute over Kavanaugh records withheld by the White House. Republicans in turn accused the Democrats of turning the hearing into a circus.

Trump jumped into the fray late in the day, saying on Twitter that Democrats were "looking to inflict pain and embarrassment" on Kavanaugh.

The president's comment followed the statements of Democratic senators who warned that Trump was, in the words of Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, "selecting a justice on the Supreme Court who potentially will cast a decisive vote in his own case."

In Kavanaugh's own statement at the end of more than seven hours of arguing, the federal appeals judge spoke repeatedly about the importance of an independent judiciary and the need to keep the court above partisan politics, common refrains among Supreme Court nominees that had added salience in the fraught political atmosphere of the moment.

With his wife, two children and parents sitting behind him, Kavanaugh called himself a judge with a straightforward judicial philosophy.

"A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. A judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent," he said.

Kavanaugh also promised to be "a team player on the Team of Nine."

The Supreme Court is often thought of as nine separate judges, rather than a team. And on the most contentious cases, the court tends to split into conservative and liberal sides. But justices often do say they seek consensus, and they like to focus on how frequently they reach unanimous decisions.

Barring a major surprise over the next two days of questioning, the committee is expected to vote along party lines to send Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate.

Majority Republicans can confirm Kavanaugh without any Democratic votes, though they'll have little margin for error.

"There are battles worth fighting, regardless of the outcome," Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said in an unsparing opening statement that criticized Kavanaugh's judicial opinions and the Senate process that Democrats said had deprived them of access to records of important chunks of Kavanaugh's time as an aide to President George W. Bush.

Democrats raised objections from the moment Chairman Chuck Grassley gaveled the committee to order. One by one, Democrats, including Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, all potential presidential contenders, demanded that Republicans delay the hearing. They railed against the unusual vetting process by Republicans that failed to include documents from three years Kavanaugh worked in the Bush administration, and 100,000 more pages withheld by the Trump White House. Some 42,000 pages were released on the evening before of the hearing.

"We cannot possibly move forward, Mr. Chairman, with this hearing," said Harris at the top of proceedings. Grassley disagreed.

As protesters repeatedly interrupted the session, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who is fighting for his own re-election in Texas, apologized to Kavanaugh for the spectacle he said had less to do about the judge's legal record than Trump in the White House.

"It is about politics," said Cruz. "It is about Democratic senators re-litigating the 2016 election."

The Republicans' slim majority in the Senate was bolstered during the hearing by the announcement from Arizona that Gov. Doug Ducey was appointing Jon Kyl, the former senator, to fill the seat held by the late Sen. John McCain. When Kyl is sworn in, Republicans will hold 51 of the 100 seats.

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are the only two Republicans even remotely open to voting against Kavanaugh, though neither has said she would do so. Abortion rights supporters are trying to appeal to those senators, who both favor abortion access.

Kavanaugh sat silently and impassively for most of the day, occasionally sipping water and taking notes on senators' points. Besides his family, he was accompanied by outgoing White House Counsel Don McGahn and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Several dozen protesters, shouting one by one, disrupted the hearing at several points and were removed by police. "This is a mockery and a travesty of justice," shouted one woman. "Cancel Brett Kavanaugh!" Others shouted against the president or to protect abortion access. "Senators, we need to stop this," called out one.

As patience thinned and tempers flared, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, denounced what he called the "mob rule." Struggling to speak over protesters, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said: "These people are so out of line they shouldn't be in the doggone room."

But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Kavanaugh the opposition being shown at the hearing reflected the concern many Americans have over Trump's "contempt of the rule of law" and the judge's own expansive views on executive power.

"It's that president who's decided you are his man," Durbin said. "Are people nervous about this concerned about this? Of course they are."

The panel's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, described the hearing's "very unique circumstances."

"Not only is the country deeply divided politically, we also find ourselves with a president who faces his own serious problems," she said referring to investigations surrounding Trump. "So it's this backdrop that this nominee comes into."

___

AP Writers Jessica Gresko and Ken Thomas contributed.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 78160

Reported Deaths: 953
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah18149245
Washington10929103
Marion9634147
Clackamas672781
Lane450747
Umatilla446850
Jackson401737
Deschutes251715
Malheur245945
Yamhill179717
Linn160023
Polk133219
Douglas98119
Klamath9265
Jefferson87411
Benton8457
Union8098
Morrow6717
Lincoln66515
Josephine5785
Wasco54319
Columbia5394
Coos4533
Hood River4303
Clatsop3730
Baker2914
Crook2446
Tillamook1470
Curry1462
Lake1431
Grant1381
Harney1041
Wallowa723
Gilliam230
Sherman230
Wheeler60
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1265182

Reported Deaths: 19410
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles4141857740
San Bernardino966571136
Riverside885301444
San Diego846381035
Orange805511578
Kern42614449
Fresno39004488
Sacramento38999586
Santa Clara35945486
Alameda30330520
San Joaquin26432510
Contra Costa24914261
Stanislaus22624430
Tulare21645312
Ventura20604185
Imperial16429356
Monterey15835123
San Francisco15797160
San Mateo14812170
Sonoma12662160
Merced12281182
Santa Barbara11631137
Kings1143489
Solano1095781
Marin7840129
Placer679471
Madera642786
San Luis Obispo634538
Shasta518750
Yolo502081
Santa Cruz463829
Butte419560
Sutter363719
Napa312418
El Dorado25814
Yuba222110
Lassen21823
San Benito196817
Tehama177326
Mendocino163223
Nevada141410
Tuolumne11049
Glenn98910
Lake97120
Humboldt9499
Colusa7476
Siskiyou7373
Amador66616
Mono5503
Calaveras54422
Del Norte3571
Inyo30816
Plumas2300
Trinity1680
Modoc1560
Mariposa1443
Alpine510
Sierra230
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
35° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 35°
Brookings
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 42°
Crater Lake
Clear
24° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 24°
Grants Pass
Overcast
32° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 32°
Klamath Falls
Clear
24° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 24°
Staying dry this week
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events