NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Senate Judiciary must conduct fair hearings on Supreme Court nominee

The buildup to Tuesday’s start of confirmation hearings for President Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee has promised a knock-down, drag-out fight from the get-go.

And the proceedings got off to a chaotic start as Democrats pushed to adjourn, and protesters repeatedly interrupted.

Brett Kavanaugh, 53, is a former law clerk for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom he would replace, and has conservative principles, like Trump’s first nominee last year, Justice Neil Gorsuch. He currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

We wrote here in July after Trump’s selection of Kavanaugh that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was already warning of an onslaught of “fear mongering” from liberal groups whose goal is to derail the nomination no matter who the candidate was. And we pointed out that the Senate’s Democratic leader Chuck Schumer was already vowing an all-out battle against Kavanaugh.

Complaints from Democrats and protester fireworks lasted through the hearing’s first hour before the Senate Judiciary Committee began with Kavanaugh’s introduction and opening statements from lawmakers. Questioning of the nominee was to begin today, followed by testimony from the American Bar Association, legal experts and people who know him.

Democratic senators cannot block Kavanaugh’s confirmation if Republicans unite on this issue with their 51-49 Senate majority. We are pleased that Indiana’s Democratic senator, Joe Donnelly, has not joined the chorus of those in instant opposition to the nominee. Donnelly is one of a few Democrats who are up for re-election in November in states where Trump is popular, and he seems to have taken a fair approach to Kavanaugh’s nomination by meeting with him on Aug. 15.

“Hoosiers rightly expect careful and thoughtful consideration of a nomination to our nation’s highest court,” Donnelly said in a statement issued after that meeting, “and I plan to keep doing my homework and make a decision sometime after Kavanaugh’s committee confirmation hearing.”

But don’t expect the tone of the confirmation hearings this week to reflect Donnelly’s judicious comments.

On Aug. 14, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey held a news conference with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and several liberal religious leaders at which he said supporters of Kavanaugh are “complicit” in “evil.”

With nods and comments of affirmation from Warren and the others at the news conference, the pro-abortion Booker said, “In a moral moment, there is no bystanders. You are either complicit in the evil, you are either contributing to the wrong or you are fighting against it.” He also referenced the 23rd Psalm in his rant against the nominee.

“It’s hard to take statements like that seriously,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said the next day in a floor speech. “To me, that’s completely unhinged and detached from any reality.”

“He’s citing Scripture to proclaim that this nominee is pure evil, of biblical proportions?” McConnell asked in disbelief afterward. “It’s truly outrageous — and not a single Democrat has come forward to condemn it.” asks that the Senate Judiciary Committee conducts fair hearings this week and rightfully considers Kavanaugh’s 12 years of decisions as a federal judge and his strong record of protecting religious liberties and supporting abortion restrictions.

Is it too much to ask that the Democrats refrain from unhinged rants of biblical proportions and act with civility, reason and respect during these confirmation hearings? And is it too much to ask Sen. Donnelly to vote his conscience, not his political allegiance, to confirm a judge whose principles reflect the majority of his constituency? We hope not.