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Kavanaugh Column, News

Game On: Senate Leadership Sets Kavanaugh Nomination Hearings for September 4th

Last Friday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) announcedthat the hearing to consider the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court will begin on September 4, 2018.

Perhaps reflecting the fact that this hearing involves, according to Senator Grassley, the “largest cumulative production of Executive Branch material ever received in the course of evaluating a Supreme Court nominee,” Grassley expects the hearing to last three to four days:

  • Opening statements by Judiciary Committee members and by Judge Kavanaugh will open the hearing on Tuesday, September 4.
  • Questioning of Judge Kavanaugh will begin on Wednesday, September 5.
  • Testimony from colleagues of Judge Kavanaugh, outside legal experts, and the American Bar Association will follow.

However, it should be noted that this time frame would reflect the regular course of business for modern confirmation hearings; all of the current Justices had hearings of four days’ length except for Justice Samuel Alito, whose hearing went five days, and Justice Clarence Thomas, whose hearing extended to eleven days before he was finally confirmed. (This article by SCOTUSBlog’s Adam Feldman includes a chart showing the length of all the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justices; before the latter part of the Twentieth Century, nominees were not subjected to hearings.)

Senator Grassley summed up the case for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation thusly:

As I said after his nomination, Judge Kavanaugh is one of the most respected jurists in the country and one of the most qualified nominees ever to be considered by the Senate for a seat on our highest court …. He’s a mainstream judge. He has a record of judicial independence and applying the law as it is written. He’s met with dozens of senators who have nothing but positive things to say…. It’s time for the American people to hear directly from Judge Kavanaugh at his public hearing.

Senator Grassley’s measured tones are intended to project an air of inevitability about the committee’s methodical march to the confirmation. Republicans thus far have held ranks, and middle-of-the-road Democrats – including several who voted for Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination – are being coy about their intentions, and perhaps waiting for a gaffe by the nominee or an explosive surprise in the documents that is yet to be revealed. (In case you’re looking for a vote count, here’s an early one from CNN last week.) Meanwhile, Republican Senate leadership has worked hard and successfully to channel the enormous document production from Judge Kavanaugh’s many years of public service, limiting it to matters that he had substantive input into. Three weeks can seem like an eternity in Washington, though, so no one who has weathered this process is exhaling yet.