The nomination hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh began on a contentious and noisy note Tuesday (Sept. 4), with protesters screaming that it was a "travesty of Justice," and Democrats attempting to delay the hearing and Judiciary Committee chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) saying that the Dems were taking advantage of his decency and integrity.
Kavanaugh is seen as a conservative justice who would be sympathetic to the ISP arguments in challenges to the government regulatory authority over network neutrality, so they have a rooting interest in his nomination, at least on that issue.
The Democrats were not letting Grassley begin the hearing, saying they had been given thousands of pages of documents about Kavanaugh the night before and needed more time to vet them.
Protesters provided something of a Greek chorus to the protest.
Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) led the charge to delay the hearing. Blumenthal called for a roll call vote on his motion to adjourn the proceedings. Leahy pointed to missing info in the Kavanaugh documents.
"What is the committee trying to hide," they said, almost in chorus, before the C-SPAN cameras and a TV/online audience.
Grassley said being interrupted before he could even announce the agenda was a first in 15 Supreme Court nominations in his experience.
Grassley said the minority was simply trying to obstruct the proceedings. He said that the charge that the Administration was asserting executive privilege was off base was itself off base. He said that was because Kavanaugh had been a counselor to the President and the information warranted some protections of confidentiality.
Grassley said the 42,000 pages were turned over the day before because that is when the committee got them.
He has pointed out that more Kavanaugh-related documents have already been released--483,000 pages--than any previous judge, and more than several combined.
Grassley called it an exciting day for those close to Judge Kavanaugh and were rightly proud of him--he appeared to be addressing the Judge's family and children to try and put the protests in context for them.
Following Grassley's response, the Democrats appeared to have made their point for now, and Kavanaugh was allowed to make some opening comments.
Grassley said that he would maintain order and remove those who tried to obstruct the proceedings.
The Dems then renewed their call to adjourn the proceedings until they get all the documents--pointing to more than 100,000 documents being withheld due to the executive privilege assertion.
Klobuchar said she had asked the Administration to withdraw that assertion, and that the hearing should not proceed until they got an answer.
Dems have been hoping to delay the hearings until after the midterms.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said that if the Dems want to hold the hearing as though it were a court proceeding, the Dems would be held in contempt of court.
Sen. Booker said it was not an attempt to delay, but to be "fully equipped" to do their constitutional duty of advice and consent.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, said that the hearing was being held in unique circumstances, with a President facing problems like firing and resignations under "clouds of corruption."
She said most of the documents from Kavanaugh's time with the President have not been made available.
She said that was the backdrop against which Kavanugh's nomination was being held. She said the Republicans needed to understand the frustration on their side of the aisle. She talked about "torture" and Enron" issues Kavanaugh has dealt with as more reason to take more time with what could be the deciding vote on key issues.
Sen. Grassley would not consider the motion to adjourn as protesters. Blumenthal said that if the motion were not entertained, the process would be "tainted and stained forever," and that if the order could not be entertained at the hearing because it was not an executive session, then they should adjourn and reconvene in executive session.
The hearing was punctuated repeatedly by members of the gallery shouting out, and being escorted out.
Sen. Klobuchar, who is also a member of the Commerce Committee, was actually the first to bring up Kavanaugh's view of the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order in her opening statement, saying it was one of her concerns about the judge, as were a couple of Kavanaugh antitrust decisions that appeared to favor consolidation.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.