Republican Sen. Ben Sasse tore into his own branch of government Tuesday as he slammed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing process as an “overblown, politicized circus.”
At the Judiciary Committee hearing, the Nebraska senator blamed a dysfunctional Congress for the overheated drama surrounding high court nominations. As the opening day devolved into a spectacle of protests and objections, Sasse explained there’s so much “hysteria” and pressure with regard to the court because “Congress has decided to self-neuter.”
He lamented that the Supreme Court justices, in turn, are expected to be “super legislators.” This “misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court,” he argued, accounts for the vitriolic rhetoric aimed at Kavanaugh.
At least two dozen people were arrested on the first day of the confirmation hearing, as they disrupted the proceedings with protests of Kavanaugh. Senate Democrats, too, continuously interrupted the opening statements of the hearing with calls to delay the proceedings.
However, Sasse said the rhetoric isn’t new to just Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Instead, he said the hearings “haven’t worked for 31 years in America” and said “screaming protesters saying ‘women are going to die’” have been present at these hearings for decades. He criticized the legislature for “giving away its power” to make the Supreme Court a “substitute political battleground.”
“The hysteria around Supreme Court nomination confirmation hearings is coming from the fact that we have a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court in American life now,” Sasse said. “Our political commentary talks about the Supreme Court like they are people wearing red and blue jerseys; that’s a really dangerous thing.”
“It’s predictable that every confirmation hearing now is going to be [an] overblown, politicized circus. It’s because we’ve accepted a new theory about how our three branches of government should work, and in particular, how the judiciary should work,” Sasse continued.
Sasse said the Supreme Court has become a “substitute political battleground” because “Congress has decided to self-neuter” and continues to pass more authority to the executive branch.
“Most people here want their jobs more than they really want to do legislative work and so they punt most of the work to the next branch,” Sasse charged.
“We badly need to restore the proper duties and the balance of power from our constitutional system,” he continued.
Democrats have been under intense pressure from liberal voters to resist Trump, and many remain irate, even two years later, over the treatment of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Garland was denied so much as a hearing last year by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Kavanaugh worked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired at the end of July. Questioning of Kavanaugh will begin Wednesday, and votes on the Senate floor could occur this month. Kavanaugh could be on the bench when the court begins its new term on Oct. 1.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.