Washington, D.C., USA : Senate hearings to confirm 53-year-old United States circuit judge and former White House administrator Brett Kavanaugh began Tuesday.
The protests, thought to be organized by Code Pink, an anti-Trump social activist group, disrupted the Senate confirmation hearings for several minutes.
Washington, D.C. police say as of 10:19 am, 22 people have been arrested at the hearing and charged with disorderly conduct.
President Trump picked Kavanaugh, a conservative Federal Appeals Court judge, to replace moderate liberal justice Anthony Kennedy, earlier this summer. Legal experts believe that if he is confirmed, Kavanaugh will shift the Supreme Court, and the US legal system, to the right for decades to come.
Senate Democrats wasted no time Tuesday in moving to block the confirmation hearing of Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, refusing to allow Republicans to even introduce the candidate.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) had barely begun his introductory remarks when Democrats on the committee repeatedly interrupted and called for the proceeding to be halted until members had more time to review documents concerning Kavanaugh’s past activities working in the White House for President George W. Bush.
“What is the rush?’’ asked Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). “What are we trying to hide?”
Most Democratic members of the committee joined in the protest, refusing to allow Grassley to put the hearing back on track. Kavanaugh sat silently, smiling, even as several audience members shouted their support for the Democrats’ protest. Several were removed from the chamber.
At one point, Kavanaugh began to introduce his family, but again was interrupted by Democrats.
Democrats were responding to the White House’s decision on Monday to withhold about 100,000 documents concerning Kavanaugh’s past work. Democrats had requested millions of pages of documents. More than 40,000 new pages were released shortly before Tuesday’s hearing began. Democrats complained that did not give them enough time to review them.
“What is being done here is unprecedented,” says Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the former committee chairman.
But Republicans, eager to fast-track the confirmation, rejected their request and even refused to wait for the National Archives to supply a smaller amount of pages that the GOP had initially requested.
“You have to understand the frustration on this side of the aisle,’’ said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, noting that the Republican-led Senate in 2016 refused to even hold a hearing for President Obama’s high court nominee, Merrick Garland.
Grassley rejected the Democrats’ call to suspend the hearing, move into executive session or hold a vote on whether to proceed. He said the number of pages released about Kavanaugh were far greater than those about any other previous Supreme Court nominee.
“I would just suggest we get on with the hearing,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. He suggested that if the hearing room were a courtroom, every Democrat “would be held in contempt of court because this whole process is supposed to be a civil one.”
After nearly 80 minutes, Democrats relented and allowed the hearing to proceed, though disruptions from audience members continued.