The Capitol building at dusk.
Michael Reynolds/EPA

GOP holds judicial confirmation hearings when no one’s around

With members of Congress having already shifted their attention away from legislating and toward campaigning, the halls on Capitol Hill are quiet – for the most part.

As Roll Call  reported late Tuesday, however, there’s quite a bit going on, even now, in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Senate is still away, but its Judiciary Committee keeps plugging away.

The panel is scheduled to hold another likely sparsely attended confirmation hearing on Wednesday to hear from more of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, including a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals selection opposed by home-state Democratic senators.

It’s one of those stories that you read and then check the date, making sure you’re not accidentally looking at an old article.

Nearly every member of Congress has returned to his/her state or district, but Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, having already spent the last two years confirming Donald Trump’s far-right judicial nominees at a blistering pace, are going to extraordinary lengths to move the process forward.

If that means holding confirmation hearings for controversial jurists when no one is around, so be it.

The HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery reported that Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) scheduled the October hearings, though he’s not around, either. “Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) chaired the first one, last week, and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) chaired Wednesday’s hearing,” she explained. “Not a single Democrat could attend either hearing. Only one other Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), was present.”

For the record, it’s a 21-member committee – which held hearings in which 18 members weren’t there.

Not surprisingly, the president’s choices for lifetime positions on the federal bench didn’t face a whole lot of questions from the handful of Republicans who were on hand for the hearings.

“Today’s hearing and last week’s were jokes,” Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor and expert on judicial nominations, told Bendery. He added, “Republicans are undermining all customs of the Senate.”

Let’s also not lose sight of the context. As much of the country probably noticed, this same committee recently went through a dramatic fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, which, among other things, featured senators on the panel attacking one another.

Once it was over, members spoke about the need to at least try to restore some sense of comity and cooperation to the committee. Soon after, Republicans scheduled confirmation hearings when the Senate was effectively out of session, and in the process, made the partisan divisions even more intense.

Postscript: One of the nominees is Allison Jones Rushing, one of Trump’s nominees for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who’s a 36-year-old lawyer who’s strongly opposed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

At her sparsely attended hearing last week, Orrin Hatch gushed about how “very impressed” he is with her.