Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court Hearings Off to a Tense, Frenzied Start
Supreme Court hearings for President Trump’s latest SCOTUS nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, began Tuesday. As senators proceed to question the right-wing judge on Capitol Hill, anxieties mount from the left over the fate of numerous constitutional rights and protections — especially Roe v. Wade — that could come into jeopardy if Kavanaugh is confirmed. While reproductive rights activists have been building momentum against his appointment for weeks, the tense first day of confirmation hearings turned up the volume on Kavanaugh’s opposition.
More than 100 lawyers from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights signed a letter Tuesday expressing concern over Kavanaugh’s willingness to interpret the law fairly. The Committee’s letter notes that members have reason to be worried about the impact Kavanaugh would have on “voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing, employment discrimination, economic justice, reproductive rights, and environmental justice.”
Almost immediately, the hearing was interrupted by protesters. At least 22 activists stormed the Senate floor and were arrested for disorderly conduct by 10:19 am local time, according to live tweets from NBC News producer and reporter Frank Thorp V. Protesters dressed as handmaids from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale were also in attendance on Capitol Hill, in what has become a common feature of demonstrations that concern reproductive rights. (Though Kavanaugh has remained vague about his official position on the constitutional right to abortion, his record on reproductive rights has sounded alarms, particularly his dissent in an October 2017 DC Circuit court decision allowing a 17-year-old undocumented detainee to obtain an abortion.)
85-year-old Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California wasted no time Tuesday morning to ask the judge, point blank, if he believes Roe v. Wade is “correct law.”
There is further concern from the left over the Trump administration’s decision to use executive privilege to withhold 100,000 documents with information about Kavanaugh, an unprecedented move in any SCOTUS candidate’s confirmation.
A number of Democratic senators have cited the stash of documents as the reason they’ll vote against Kavanaugh. Hawai’i Senator Brian Schatz tweeted on Tuesday that he “will note no,” calling the confirmation process “illegitimate” so long as Kavanaugh’s records remain blocked from Congress. New Jersey Senator Corey Booker tweeted similar remarks, implying that Kavanaugh must have something to hide.
Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate (50-49 over the Democrats), enough to confirm Kavanaugh. Additionally, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced Tuesday that former Senator Jon Kyl will be taking the late John McCain’s seat in the Senate. Kyl and Kavanaugh, the New York Times reports, are friendly with one another.
Though the hearings are already underway, rights groups are still encouraging voters to contact their senators about how they should vote. The National Lawyers Guild, a progressive bar association, has published a list of 11 senators that constituents should prioritize: Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Doug Jones (Alabama), Jeff Flake (Arizona), Cory Gardner (Colorado), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Susan Collins (Maine), Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Bob Corker (Tennessee), Joe Manchin (West Virginia).
Both Collins and Murkowski have previously said they would not vote to confirm a nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
With several days to weeks ahead before the Senate will vote, it remains to be seen how many Republicans will listen to the growing number of voices who want to make sure Kavanaugh stays off the Supreme Court.
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(Photos by Win McNamee, Chip Somodevila, and Drew Angerer/Getty Images)