Republican Senator Chuck Grassley had just begun to politely railroad Brett Kavanaugh’s wildly unpopular Supreme Court nomination through the Judiciary Committee he chairs, when a woman’s steely voice, off camera, interrupted him.
“Mr. Chairman, I would like to be recognized to ask a question before we proceed.”
The camera eventually turned to the speaker, California Senator Kamala Harris.
“The committee received just last night—less than 15 hours ago—more than 42,000 pages of documents that we have not had a chance to read or review or analyze,” Harris told the chair. “We cannot possibly move forward.” Harris was referring to an unexpected wave of Kavanaugh documents released hours before the hearing, late Sunday night, by attorneys hired by the George W. Bush Presidential Library.
Grassley ignored her, so Amy Klobuchar continued. When Grassley ignored Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal moved to adjourn the hearing. The cranky Iowa senator ignored him, too. “We are rushing through this process in a way that is unnecessary,” Cory Booker then implored. “I appeal to your sense of fairness and decency.”
Predictably, that appeal failed too. Grassley gave up on fairness and decency a long time ago, when he refused to hold a hearing on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, keeping the seat warm for über-conservative Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed last year, thus depriving our first black president of one of the most important decisions of his second term.
But Grassley was rattled. He let all of the Democrats get in early hits at both Kavanaugh—and at the sneaky GOP process in confirming him. Those hits stung. All hell broke loose from the audience: chanting and poster-waving from dozens of Kavanaugh opponents, followed by their noisy removal. One demand was repeated: “Cancel Brett Kavanaugh. Adjourn the hearing.”
Thus began the most consequential Supreme Court hearing of our lifetimes, on a morning when many glum progressives woke up afraid that Democrats didn’t have the spine to fight back—despite polls showing that Kavanaugh has less public support than any nominee in the last 30 years. “No nominee this unpopular has ever been confirmed,” Planned Parenthood Vice President Dawn Laguens told an early-morning conference call convened by women’s and civil-rights organizations. Ninety protesters, from groups organized by the Women’s March and the Center for Popular Democracy, would be arrested by the end of the hearing, Women’s March adviser Winnie Wong told me. (She and march leader Linda Sarsour were among the first arrested; they were released within hours, as others took their places.)
Buses packed with protesters descended on Washington Monday night. People were encouraged to dress in “business professional clothing” to have a better chance of getting into the hearing room. Thus did women who looked like nice Republican ladies, in summer shifts and business suits (along with a few men in ties), sit quietly for hours, then loudly interrupt the proceedings and get arrested.