Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., left, pause as protesters disrupt the confirmation hearing of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Potential 2020 Democrats seize on Kavanaugh Senate hearings

September 04, 2018 - 1:23 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spoiling for a fight, some Democratic senators weighing 2020 presidential campaigns seized upon the opening moments of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation hearings on Tuesday in a show of force aimed at countering President Donald Trump.

One by one, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey, demanded that Republicans delay Kavanaugh's hearing after a last-minute release of more than 40,000 pages of documents and the withholding of more than 100,000 more.

The Democrats' coordinated showdown with the committee's chairman, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, served as a theatrical preview of what is expected to be a wild, unpredictable 2020 campaign against Trump, who has stoked outrage among Democratic activists and is expected to fuel an unusually large field of challengers.

The hearing showed the degree to which the Senate could be the testing ground of resistance among Democrats who are prepared to fight the Republican president's agenda in a field without an obvious front-runner. And it harkened back to how Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic senators battled President George W. Bush's administration before launching presidential bids of their own in the 2008 contest.

Grassley hadn't even introduced Kavanaugh by name when Harris interjected, objecting to the late Monday night release of Kavanaugh's documents. Harris has created a number of viral moments with her tough questioning of witnesses during her first term and quickly noted lawmakers hadn't had a chance to "review or read or analyze" the papers.

"You're out of order. I'll proceed," Grassley responded, banging his gavel.

Said Harris: "We cannot possibly move forward, Mr. Chairman, with this hearing."

As Grassley tried to introduce Kavanaugh, Klobuchar called for the hearing to be postponed as the two senators attempted to talk over each other. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., jumped in, asking that the hearing be adjourned, prompting loud cheers and applause in the room.

Kavanaugh, a veteran judge and a former aide to Bush, sat silently as the spectacle unfolded.

Booker then appealed to Grassley's "sense of decency and integrity," pushing for more transparency in the hearing.

"We are rushing through this process in a way that is unnecessary," Booker said.

The three Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are considering whether to enter the presidential campaign following the November midterm elections along with other Senate Democrats not on the panel, such as Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who unsuccessfully battled Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, also is weighing another campaign.

The field could include a number of Democratic governors, members of Congress, mayors and political newcomers along with familiar faces such as former Vice President Joe Biden, who appeared at a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh on Monday as he tests the waters.

Trump, even with his party facing a challenging midterm election, has relished the prospect of facing off against Democrats when the presidential campaign begins in earnest next year.

The president didn't immediately respond to the Democrats' opposition to Kavanaugh on Tuesday. But he dismissed on Twitter the possibility of another prospective candidate, former Secretary of State John Kerry, Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee.

"I should only be so lucky," Trump tweeted on Monday, adding, "although the field that is currently assembling looks really good - FOR ME!"

Republicans accused Democrats of politicizing the hearing and avoiding substance because they lack the votes to derail the nomination.

"It is about Democratic senators trying to re-litigate the 2016 election and just as importantly, working to begin litigating the 2020 presidential election," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who unsuccessfully challenged Trump for the 2016 nomination.

During the hearing, the room was filled by demonstrators shouting at Kavanaugh, a reminder of the bitterness against Trump's presidency and Democrats' outrage over the treatment of Merrick Garland, Obama's Supreme Court nominee, who was denied a hearing last year by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell before Trump's election.

Minority Democrats are unable to delay a vote on Kavanaugh, making the confirmation process more of a demonstration of the party's warnings that he could help overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, or undermine health care or other Democratic priorities.

Democrats are expected to press Kavanaugh on the issues when questioning begins on Wednesday.

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On Twitter follow Ken Thomas at https://twitter.com/KThomasDC

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