“Gentlemen, I have always been persuaded that the stability and success of the National Government, and consequently the happiness of the People of the United States, would depend in a considerable degree on the Interpretation and Execution of its Laws. In my opinion, therefore, it is important that the Judiciary System should not only be independent in its operations, but as perfect as possible in its formation.” — President George Washington, From George Washington to the United States Supreme Court, April 3, 1790
After four contentious days of testimony, one thing is absolutely clear from the Senate confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s handpicked Supreme Court nominee: there is no love lost between Senate Democrats and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Democrats were combative and, in some cases, defiant as Kavanaugh’s high-stakes confirmation hearing played out for the American public to see. Trump’s nominee could drastically remake the court, cementing a conservative ideological balance that would affect many of the rights and fundamental liberties many Americans take for granted for generations to come.
Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California were particularly forceful in their exchanges with Kavanaugh — and, given what’s at stake for our nation, rightfully so.
Harris interrupted the opening hearings over the loud objections of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, demanding a postponement, especially in light of Republican’s releasing over 40,000 pages of documents on Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House the night before the start of the hearings. As Harris noted, given the time and sheer volume of documents, the confirmation process needed to be delayed. But despite Harris’ common-sense objection, the Republicans decided the show must go on.
Documents became a running theme in the Democrats’ resistance to Kavanaugh’s nomination. In a break with protocol, Booker released a trove of emails Republicans wanted to keep secret, arguing that there was no reason for them to be marked confidential. Republicans roundly dismissed Booker’s attempt to shed further light on Kavanaugh, a potential lifetime appointee to the Supreme Court, as “theatrics.” Senator John Cornyn, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, framed Booker’s document release as grandstanding, saying that, “Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or of confidentiality of the documents that we are privy to.”
Whether the questioning was difficult, such as the exchanges between Kavanaugh and Harris on Robert Mueller or a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions; or the document was salient to understanding how Kavanaugh might rule as a Supreme Court justice, such as Booker’s release of an email previously marked confidential, titled “racial profiling,” Republicans distilled any attempt by Democrats to provide the American public with more information than Republicans were willing to provide down to cheap political posturing.
No matter where you may fall on the motivations of either senator, or any senator on the opposite side of the aisle, there was a concerted effort to provide their constituents and their nation with as much information as possible on Kavanaugh, because, ultimately, this nomination has been nothing if not rushed and utterly devoid of meaningful vetting.
Republicans, who currently have a 51-49 majority in the Senate and do not require a single vote from Senate Democrats to confirm Kavanaugh, are sharing as little as possible about Trump’s nominee. According to CNN, Kavanaugh has “the lowest level of support for a Supreme Court nominee since Robert Bork, whose nomination was rejected by the Senate in 1987.” Rather than worry about shoring up the public’s confidence in our nation’s highest court, Republicans are worried that the more we know, the less likelier the chance of a consequence-free Kavanaugh confirmation.
If you are troubled by what hangs in the balance — a woman’s right to choose, a citizen’s constitutional right to vote, a consenting couples’ right to marry, the limits of executive power, addressing climate change and more — call your senators immediately at 202-224-3121 and tell them that you expect them to either vote “no” on Kavanaugh, or vote “yes” at grave professional risk.
Confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would represent a grave subversion of the will of the people, and the utter abandonment of the Senate’s duty to advise and consent. We cannot allow such an abuse of power to go unchecked.
Morial is president of the National Urban League.