WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh is taking center stage on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began the confirmation process with opening statements this morning, which will be followed by two days of questioning.
Democrats don't want Kavanaugh on the high court so they immediately tried to shut down the hearings, demanding more documents about Kavanaugh's previous government service. As one Democrat after another persistently tried to block the proceedings, quarreling and confusion ensued, and Republicans accused them of turning the hearing into a circus.
Numerous hecklers contributed to the raucous scene, shouting repeatedly throughout the first few hours of opening statements.
Many Democrats had refused to meet with Kavanaugh in the lead up to the hearings and had already tried numerous tactics to delay the hearing. But Republicans put the brakes on any effort to push the hearings until after the midterm elections.
"Let there be no misunderstanding that there would be any kind of delaying tactic that would take us past the first Tuesday in November," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters in July.
President Donald Trump's second Supreme Court nominee has already been a vicious confirmation battle. Specifically, his stance on Roe v. Wade has been a center point of contention. Liberals believe Kavanaugh will try to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court ruling which created a right to abortion. But several key senators have indicated they're satisfied with Kavanaugh when it comes to the abortion issue.
"He said that he agreed with what Justice (John) Roberts said at his nomination hearing in which he said that it was settled law," said pro-choice Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who met with Kavanaugh last month.
Many Democrats, however, want more than that. Just last month, Democratic lawmakers demanded almost a million pages of documents on the judge from the National Archives. And during this week's confirmation hearings, they plan to use their time to pick apart his stance on abortion and other issues.
"How much more do they need to know to vote no? And yet they're really pushing hard for everything," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said.
Kavanaugh enters the ring with respected credentials: He earned a Yale law degree, clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy and has a vast judicial record with more than 300 opinions.
His confirmation could influence the court for decades.
"I think Judge Kavanaugh is satisfying people that he's going to be an independent person, that he's going to leave his personal views out of it – that he's going to look at the law and look at the facts of the case," Grassley said.
Republicans hope to get Kavanaugh seated on the bench by Oct. 1, the start of the next Supreme Court session.
The GOP has a razor-thin majority in the Senate and will need every vote to push this nominee through.