Life after the Brett Kavanaugh fight got off to a subdued start Thursday for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Gone was the energetic buzz of news media, protesters and police officers that filled the hallway outside the committee’s hearing room in prior weeks. Inside the room, the senators spoke only in muted tones that contrasted sharply with the passionate speeches just two weeks earlier during a committee vote on the Supreme Court pick.
Kavanaugh and the bitter confirmation process did get mentioned, but not discussed. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, whose animated speech criticizing Democrats two weeks ago earned a parody on Saturday Night Live, didn’t say a word Thursday other than to vote.
On the agenda were two noncontroversial bills. The committee advanced a measure that would deny entry to any foreign national who has engaged in election interference on a voice vote, and a bill that would make lynching a federal crime, on a 21-0 vote.
“Quite appropriate that a bill like that would be voted out of this committee unanimously,” Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said of the anti-lynching bill.
The committee also voted to advance a pair of controversial judicial nominees. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii spoke out against that move, but their delivery was relatively deflated.
Their focus was mainly on Jonathan Kobes, a nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He garnered a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association because he doesn’t have “the requisite experience” to be a judge and none of his writing reflected an ability to write about complex legal matters.
But as Feinstein and Hirono said, that wasn’t unusual. Already, in less than two years, six of President Donald Trump’s nominees have gotten that rating, Feinstein said.
“We should all ensure those being appointed to the federal bench have the basic experience necessary to perform the basic functions of the job,” Feinstein said. “I’m disappointed that we continue to consider to vote on nominees who do not maintain these basic standards.”
Hirono said such an evaluation in normal times would go to the White House and the nomination would not be made. “But these are not normal times,” Hirono said.
Grassley criticized the rating, saying that the ABA’s evaluator for Kobes “has a long history of liberal activism” and “a Republican nominee to the Eighth Circuit can’t expect a fair shake.”
The committee voted 11-10 to advance Kobes’ nomination to the Senate floor, a familiar result for controversial judicial nominees.
Just after the hearing, Grassley tweeted that the Senate should not recess ahead of the midterm elections in November until all 49 judicial nominations pending on the Senate floor are confirmed: “work comes b4 campaigning.”
And with that, the committee was back to business.
Watch: Here Are the Top Upcoming Supreme Court Cases as Kavanaugh Takes His Seat on the Bench