Why Senate Democrats Are Refusing To Meet With Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Jul 24, 2018
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been clear that he wants Judge Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court before this fall's election no matter what.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: So let there be no misunderstanding that there would be any kind of delaying tactic that would take us past the first Tuesday in November.

SHAPIRO: Senate Democrats want to slow things down. They're asking for a massive list of documents related to Kavanaugh's decades-long career in public life. NPR's Kelsey Snell joins us from the Capitol to explain what this document fight is about. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: So what are Democrats asking for here?

SNELL: They're asking for thousands and thousands of pages of documents that include emails, drafts and other kinds of communications between Kavanaugh and basically anybody in public office. Now, some of it dates back to his work as a staff secretary at the White House under George W. Bush. And Democrats have described it as anything and everything conceivably relevant to his professional career before becoming a judge.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and most of the Democrats that I've talked to on the judiciary committee are refusing to meet with Kavanaugh until there's an agreement on those documents. They say it's the only fair way to know that Kavanaugh might rule on something like abortion rights or the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

And Dems say it's just kind of the same request that Republicans had for Elena Kagan. She had a life in public office before she was nominated, and they turned over more than 200,000 pages. And that's not a small amount. And Democrats didn't fight that request. So here's what Schumer said about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: I mean, what we're asking for is the very same thing that they asked for - nothing more, nothing less.

SHAPIRO: Kelsey, if this is the same, then why wouldn't Republicans go along with the request?

SNELL: Mostly they say the request is burdensome and a little disingenuous. Republican leaders say Democrats have already made up their minds about how they're going to vote, Democrats like Schumer, who have said that they won't vote for Kavanaugh and that - so Republicans think it's a delay tactic. I talked to Senator John Cornyn. He's from Texas. He's the No. 2 Republican in the Senate.

And in this case, really importantly, he's one of the highest-ranking Republicans on the judiciary committee. He says they're doing their best to get the documents to Democrats, but he doesn't think all of them are necessary or really all that relevant. He made the point that Democrats voted for Kavanaugh when he was nominated for the D.C. Circuit Court in 2006, all without this kind of information.

JOHN CORNYN: They weren't important during the last confirmation, so it's hard to take seriously the demands that they should be important for this nomination other than just as a way to delay the confirmation.

SNELL: So it's kind of a political fight at this point. And Democrats say it's not fair to say that it was the same in 2006 because the standard for Supreme Court Justice is just different. There's a higher bar.

SHAPIRO: Do you think this could actually delay the confirmation vote?

SNELL: That's the question I've been trying to figure out all week. And really, it kind of depends on whether the six or seven senators who might be undecided decide that they want this information, people like Republicans Rand Paul and Susan Collins or Democrats who are up for re-election in those states that voted for Trump like Heidi Heitkamp or Joe Manchin. Now, if they say they want more documents, that could be persuasive.

Senators, including Democrats, say they actually believe Grassley wants a fair and open process. And it's just a question of whether or not he considers it reasonable to ask for this. It's important to remember here, too, that not all Democrats are planning to boycott the meetings. Manchin, who I already mentioned, and Heitkamp already have said that they plan to meet with Kavanaugh. Manchin's doing it on Monday.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Thanks, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAC DEMARCO SONG, "MY KIND OF WOMAN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.