Senators on the Judiciary Committee sparred Thursday about the volume of records being sought for review ahead of the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Republicans, fearful that Democrats are looking to stall nomination until after the mid-term elections, want the committee to establish a framework for document requests related to Judge Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary to President George W. Bush. Only papers he authored or contributed to should be subject to review by the committee, they said.
Republicans said his government record already was vetted by the Senate ahead of his confirmation vote to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006. Republicans want the committee to focus on the roughly 300 opinions he authored while serving on the federal appeals court for 12 years.
“Some sort of standard, it seems to me, should apply rather than just saying we want every scrap of paper he saw during the time he was in government service,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.
Democrats objected to coming up with a new standard. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan served as solicitor general during the Obama administration and all of her applicable documents were turned over ahead of her confirmation hearing in 2010, she said.
“Our constituents deserve to know who this nominee is, what he will bring to the court, and how his legal views will impact their daily lives,” said the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
“And this starts with having access to Judge Kavanaugh’s records from his time in the White House and as a political operative,” she added.
Typically, the committee reviews past legal work of the judicial nominees in order to probe them during confirmation hearings, but since Judge Kavanaugh’s record is so extensive, having worked for Mr. Bush and as a lawyer with the special counsel Ken Starr, there’s concern about how long the process may take.
Democrats have argued that a vote on Judge Kavanaugh should not happen until after the mid-term election in November, which could change the Senate’s makeup and the outcome for the nominee.
“It can’t just be an open-ended fishing expedition,” said Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican.
In addition to working as a staff secretary in the Bush White House, Judge Kavanaugh also worked with special counsel Mr. Starr during the investigation into President Bill Clinton, playing a key role in drafting the Starr Report which urged the impeachment of the president. He also played a role on behalf of the Bush campaign during the 2000 Florida recount.
Following Mr. Trump’s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asked nearly 100 Justice Department attorneys to start reviewing documents related to Judge Kavanaugh’s work.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said the two sides are trying to work together to come up with all the relevant documents in a timely manner.
“We are in a process here on these documents,” Mr. Grassley said. “Senator Feinstein and my staff met yesterday … with the lawyers of President George W. Bush, so I hope that’s an example that we are working in good faith.”
While the committee is working out the document requests, Judge Kavanaugh is making rounds on Capitol Hill, meeting with senators ahead of his confirmation hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.
Since his nomination earlier this month, he’s met with 23 Republican senators.
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