Healthcare set to take center stage after contentious start to Kavanaugh's SCOTUS confirmation hearings

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings got underway in the Senate on Tuesday, kicking off with a chaotic first day that included partisan spats and interruptions from protesters.

Amid the back-and-forth over the release of documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s record, it was clear that healthcare issues will play a pivotal role in the debate as the hearings continue through the week. Protesters ushered out of the hearing shouted concerns about losing protections for pre-existing conditions and abortion access. Democrats highlighted both issues in their statements.

Tuesday’s meeting focused on introductory statements from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Kavanaugh himself. Kavanaugh will face two more days of questioning this week, with a fourth day available if necessary.

Democrats on the panel came out swinging, as more than 42,000 pages of documents they had requested weeks prior were released less than a day before Tuesday’s hearing. The lack of time to review the documents—and the fact that those records are incomplete—are grounds for a delay on the hearing, they argued.

“We have been denied real access to the documents we need to advise and consent, which turns this hearing into a charade and mockery of our norms,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said.

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Democrats on the panel formally requested at the end of July the documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s time as an attorney in the George W. Bush administration. Though thousands of pages were released, the former president and President Donald Trump withheld more than 100,000 additional documents under “executive privilege.”

Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, defended the process, saying in his opening statement (PDF) that the lead-up to the hearing was conducted with “unprecedented transparency.”

“The American people have unprecedented access and more materials to review for Judge Kavanaugh than they ever had for a Supreme Court nominee,” Grassley said.

As questioning begins, Democrats are expected to press Kavanaugh on where he stands on Roe v. Wade and the legality of the Affordable Care Act. Trump famously noted that he intended to nominate judges that would overturn the Roe decision.

Ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Calif., said in her opening statement (PDF) that Kavanaugh’s dissent in a case that granted a young immigrant woman an abortion demonstrates that he would be “willing to disregard precedent.”

“The impact of overturning Roe is much broader than a woman’s right to choose,” Feinstein said. “It’s about protecting the most personal decisions we make from government intrusion.”

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Kavanaugh did not directly address the concerns about his record on healthcare in his opening statement but did hit back at critics who argue that he was selected because he fit Trump’s stated mold.

He said that the Supreme Court is not divided by parties and is instead a “team of nine” who work together, and that, if confirmed, he looks forward to being a “team player.” A good judge is a “neutral and impartial arbiter” who is not beholden to a particular political goal.

“My judicial philosophy is simple: A judge must be independent and must interpret the law—not make the law,” Kavanaugh said.