Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called the constant disruptions from protesters in the audience “the noise of democracy” Tuesday during Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
“This is a different hearing for the Supreme Court than I have ever been through,” Durbin said during his opening statements before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s different in what happened in this room just this morning. What we heard is the noise of democracy. This is what happens in a free country when people can stand up and speak and not be jailed, imprisoned, tortured or killed because of it.”
President Donald Trump announced Kavanaugh as his nominee July 9 to succeed the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. The first several hours of the hearing were dominated by chaos engendered by Democrats on the panel repeatedly challenging the committee’s chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), with demands for adjournment, punctuated by repeated protesters in the audience shouting often undecipherable words.
Grassley could have restored some semblance of calm to the proceedings by ordering the U.S. Capitol Police to clear the hearing room of everybody but members of the press, congressional staff, Kavanaugh’s family members, and Trump administration officials assisting him.
Later in the hearing, in response to a complaint from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) about Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s renewed attempt to force an adjournment, Grassley said he was allowing “the committee to run the hearing.” He then permitted Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, to continued speaking, even though Grassley denied his adjournment motion.
“It is not mob rule,” Durbin said. “There are times when it has been uncomfortable. I’m sure it was for your children; I hope you can explain to them at some point. But it does represent what we are about in this democracy. Why is this happening for the first time in the history of this committee? I think we have to be honest about why it’s happening.”
Durbin expressed concern that Kavanaugh would overrule longstanding precedents in cases such as Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court case provided the right to get an abortion nationwide in 1973.
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Democratic interruptions of the proceedings lasted for roughly an hour before members began making statements. Audience protesters continued, however, whenever Republicans, including Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), spoke.
At one point, a clearly irritated Hatch said, “Mr. Chairman, I don’t know if the committee should have to put up with the sort of insolence that’s going on in this room today, and frankly these people are so out of line they shouldn’t even be allowed in the doggone room,” Hatch said. “But Judge Kavanaugh, I’m proud of you, I know how good you are, and I know you deserve this position.”
“What we heard is the noise of democracy.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was the only Democrat disrupted by the audience protesters, but the shouting lasted only for a few seconds, as if the protester was unaware that Leahy is a Democrat. He condemned the shouting during his opening remarks, saying that he opposes such behavior no matter which side it comes from.
Democrats have been demanding millions of documents from when Kavanaugh worked as a senior associate counsel and assistant for former President George W. Bush. They have called for the confirmation hearing to be delayed until all their document requests are fulfilled.