Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh began with fireworks on Tuesday as shouting protesters were removed forcefully and Democratic senators called for shutting down for the day.
As Kavanaugh sat silently with his family behind him, Democratic senators protested a lack of time to review the nominee’s voluminous records from his time in the George W. Bush Administration, the withholding of certain documents under executive privilege and the speed with which the committee was moving on confirmation.
“We are rushing through this process in a way that is unnecessary,” said Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.
He and other senators spoke out of turn, as protesters with the liberal group Code Pink periodically jumped up and began shouting, leading to a chaotic opening to a week of hearings. “We stand for reproductive rights,” yelled one protester. “Please vote no!” yelled another. “An illegitimate president cannot make a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” yelled a third.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley hadn’t even finished his opening statement as order in the hearing broke down. Right before Grassley was slated to deliver it, the majority of Democrats on the committee, with the exception of ranking member Dianne Feinstein, moved to adjourn the hearing, arguing that the documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House that the Senate had received Monday night was a cause for delay. Feinstein expressed her displeasure with the hearings in her opening statement but stayed out of the procedural fray.
As the Democrats on the committee were making their requests, members of the public watching the hearing in the back of the room were voicing their own opposition and being led away. At least 15 protests interrupted the hearing during the first 45 minutes.
One code pink protester held up a sign, that read “ROE- YES KAVANA-NOPE,” a reference to the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that upheld a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
The entire time this was happening, Kavanaugh sat silently in the middle of the room, watching both senators and spectators denounce his nomination.
As Grassley repeatedly tried to read his opening statement, Democrats again brought up their desire to adjourn the hearing. Grassley let them speak, but warned their efforts would ultimately be futile.
“We’re going to not necessarily accommodate all obstruction, but if people have got something to say, this chairman is going to let them say it,” Grassley said. “But its pretty boring to hear the same thing all the time.”
An hour and fifteen minutes after the hearing started, he was finally able to give his opening statement uninterrupted.