As of September 6, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh remains in the midst of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has described the Democratic Party’s tactics at those hearings as “‘mob rule.’”
The Senator was exaggerating, but not by much.
Over the past several days, Senate Democrats have repeatedly interrupted committee proceedings and have (futilely) attempted to have the hearings put off. In addition, over 70 protesters have been arrested for disrupting the hearings. A September 4 article in Politico—not known as a bastion of conservatism—was entitled “Democrats create chaos at Kavanaugh hearing.” Later in the week, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) released multiple documents relating to Judge Kavanaugh’s work in the George W. Bush White House; the documents had been marked “committee confidential”, and Sen. Booker could be punished by the Senate for releasing them.
Senate Democrats are making a stink about the Kavanaugh nomination for several reasons, most of which have little or nothing to do with Judge Kavanaugh (who is abundantly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court). First, Senate Democrats are still smarting from Senate Republicans’ unwillingness to consider President Barack Obama’s 2016 nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that a Supreme Court vacancy occurring in a presidential election year should not be filled by a lame-duck president.) Second, Senate Democrats are frustrated that Senate rules do not allow the minority party to block a vote on a judicial nominee. Third, many Senate Democrats harbor a deep antipathy toward President Donald Trump and would oppose any judge that the President might nominate. Fourth, recently-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy was a frequent swing vote on the Court; because Judge Kavanaugh is perceived as more conservative in his judicial orientation than Justice Kennedy, Senate Democrats are concerned that his confirmation could shift the Court to the right. Finally, several Senate Democrats have presidential aspirations; the Kavanaugh hearings offer those senators an opportunity to make headlines and draw attention to themselves.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has stated that he intends to call for a Judiciary Committee vote on the Kavanaugh nomination on Sept. 13 in the hope that a vote by the full Senate could take place before the new Supreme Court term begins in October. The outcome of that vote will likely hinge on moderate Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) (neither of whom has yet taken a public position on the nomination) and on Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Jon Tester (D-MT), each of whom faces re-election in a Republican-leaning state this fall and will likely face intense pressure to support the Kavanaugh nomination.