The hearing to evaluate sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh should happen, even if his accuser doesn’t show.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Roll Call on Wednesday that the hearing probably wouldn’t happen if Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct at a high school party in the early 1980s, doesn’t show up, and that the decision would wait until the last minute.
Committee Democrats clearly wanted to make this a spectacle, so it would make sense for their counterparts to do some political jiu-jitsu and use the weight of their own spectacle against them by holding the hearing anyway.
Imagine it: Chuck Grassley gaveling the Judiciary Committee in at 10 a.m. sharp on Monday morning, with an empty chair with a name card on the desk in front of it. Take a five-minute pause for what should have been the witness’s opening statement, and then proceed to give members allotted question time.
During that question time, committee Democrats would likely try to outdo the circus they started during the first round of hearings, and Republicans would have the opportunity to respond with as many variations of the following points as possible:
For the second panel, allow Democrats to confront Kavanaugh about the claims and the lack of evidence against him. Given his extensive legal career, he ought to hold up just fine.
After all, scheduling this hearing was never about pacifying Democrats’ concerns about the nominee. It was about getting the four possible GOP flippers on board for the final floor vote. Everyone knew where all but a small handful of Senate Democrats (the ones currently running for re-election in red states) would fall before nominee was even named.
The idea that this confirmation process was somehow going to change any made-up minds on the left side of the aisle was a complete delusion.
There is always the possibility that Ford is telling the truth, but her actions and what she has so far been willing to provide don’t do a thing to give anyone not blinded by partisanship that impression. Making allegations as serious as these and then refusing to testify under oath (either publicly or privately) until a law enforcement body that doesn’t have jurisdiction in the matter opens an investigation into 36-year-old claims that the accuser can’t even fully flesh out stinks to high heaven.
And then there’s the political benefit of doing something. Since this is going to be a campaign issue whether anyone likes it or not, Republicans may as well use it to help close that enthusiasm gap that tax cuts haven’t managed to cover. Midterms are about “get out the vote” efforts for the base.
If legislators won’t do anything on immigration enforcement, the border wall, defunding Planned Parenthood, or anything else on the list of failures and broken promises between now and November, they could use this to remind voters that they’re at least fighting for something in Washington.