IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Kavanaugh hearings are off to an unexpectedly fiery start

Can Democrats stop Brett Kavanaugh on their own? No. Can they put up a good fight anyway? Evidently, yes.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Judge Brett Kavanaugh his Supreme Court nominee, in the East Room of the White House, Monday, July 9, 2018, in...

It's in the Republicans' interest to make Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings as dull as possible. Donald Trump's choice for the high court is already unusually unpopular with the public -- especially American women -- and if it were up to GOP officials on Capitol Hill and the White House, voters would hear very little about the proceedings in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It was against this backdrop that Democrats on the panel made some noise this morning.

"The committee received just last night, less than 15 hours ago, 42,000 pages of documents that we have not had an opportunity to read, review or analyze," Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said moments after the hearing opened. "We cannot possibly move forward with this hearing."Sen. Amy Klobluchar, D-Minn., chimed in, agreeing with Harris and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., then added, "Mr. Chairman, if we cannot be recognized, I move to adjourn...we had been denied real access to the real documents we need" and also said that Republicans have turned the hearing into a "mockery."Other Democrats began to add to the chorus of concerns, interrupting Grassley. "What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?" asked Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt."This process will be tainted and stained forever" if the proceedings are not delayed, said Blumenthal.

At one point, the White House thought it'd be a good idea to alert reporters to a tally of interruptions from Senate Democrats, who were trying to force a vote to adjourn the hearing.

The point of the alert was apparently to offer proof that Dems on the Judiciary Committee were being uncooperative. I'm not sure that's such a bad thing. A scandal-plagued president, already the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, who's openly hostile toward the rule of law, has chosen for the high court a controversial conservative whose record will not be fully scrutinized by the senators whose job it is to examine his background.

Can Democrats stop Kavanaugh on their own? No. Can they put up a fight anyway? Evidently, yes.

A person familiar with the planning for the panel's Democrats told NBC News that the members "agreed to their strategy, which included universal calls for adjournment, on Tuesday morning. A second source familiar with the planning said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., led a call over the holiday weekend to talk through the strategy."

Again, Republicans are likely to see this as worthy of criticism: Dems coordinated their disruptions, adding a theatrical element to the process. But much of the country wants to know if Democrats are prepared to put up a credible fight, representing those who don't want Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. As the process began in earnest this morning, the fireworks suggested the Senate minority was willing to do more than roll over and play dead.

Nevertheless, some in the Republican majority have made up their minds, without having heard the judge's answers or reviewed his background materials. "I'm proud of the president for nominating you," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, "and I wish you the best because we are going to confirm you."