- By Jessica Wehrman Washington Bureau
Sen. Rob Portman capped a long and contentious first day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh Tuesday with the warmest of words, calling Kavanaugh “an extraordinary nominee in every respect,” who “deserves broad support.”
Portman spoke during the late hours of a particularly testy first day of hearings, with protesters frequently shouting interruptions and Democrats repeatedly and futilely introducing motions to delay the hearings after the White House released 42,000 pages of documents on Kavanaugh the night before the hearing.
Democrats called for the extension because they said they did not have enough time to review the documents.
“We should not be moving forward with this hearing,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat. “The American people deserve better than this.”
After hours of opening statements from senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Portman, who worked with Kavanaugh in the George W. Bush White House, joined former Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza and attorney Lisa Blatt in introducing President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Anthony Kennedy, who ended his 30-year run on the court earlier this year.
Rice called Kavanaugh “just a very good human being” and “an old soul who is made to steady us in these complicated times.”
During his brief comments, Portman praised Kavanaugh’s family, including his mother Martha, who went to law school at age 34 and eventually became a trial judge.
He also praised Kavanaugh personally, calling him “thoughtful and compassionate and someone who has a big heart and the humility to listen.”
Hours after Kavanaugh and Portman met in Portman’s office to discuss his nomination, Portman said Kavanaugh served dinner to the homeless through his church — an event planned before he became Trump’s Supreme Court pick. Portman said he found out about it later after someone recognized the Supreme Court nominee and tweeted a photo of him, clad in a baseball cap, working in a soup kitchen.
“I know this man,” Portman told his colleagues. “He does things because it’s the right thing to do.”
Democrat after Democrat, however, questioned how independent Kavanaugh will be.
“This to me is a profound and historical moment,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. “I cannot support your nomination, not just because of the body of your work, but also the perverse process by which this comes forward.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, signaled last month that he would not support Kavanaugh, saying in a written statement that he had “serious concerns” about some of Kavanaugh’s rulings on women’s rights and consumer rights. On Tuesday, his campaign sent out a fundraising solicitation where Brown reiterated that he’s a “no” on Kavanaugh.
“I have already come out in opposition because I work for the people of Ohio, not the special interests,” he wrote. “I do not believe he would put working families’ interests first.”
For his part, Portman has supported Kavanaugh enthusiastically since Trump nominated him in July, posting a video online about his friendship, making TV appearances to tout Kavanaugh’s nomination and, most recently, helping prepare him for his confirmation hearings.
Portman praised Kavanaugh’s experience and background, which includes more than 300 published opinions, his experience teaching at Harvard, Yale and Georgetown law schools, and the fact that the Supreme Court has adopted his reasoning 13 times.
“In my view, there is not a better-qualified person to be on that court,” Portman said.