Several House Democratic women staged a symbolic protest in the middle of Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate committee vote on Friday — a conscious nod to 1991, when Democratic women led the charge for a hearing on sexual harassment claims against now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
The House Democratic women stood in silence as the Judiciary Committee began taking up Kavanaugh’s high court bid, preparing to advance it to the Senate floor later Friday, and later walked out of the room. Three Democratic senators joined them outside the room, making their own unmistakable statement of fury over the GOP’s swift advancement of Kavanaugh’s nomination following incendiary Thursday testimony from his sexual assault accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
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One of those three senators, California Democrat Kamala Harris, said in an interview outside the committee room that the moment “came together organically. I was sitting in there — I couldn’t sit there any longer, and I walked out. My colleagues obviously felt the same way.”
Harris later tweeted that the committee’s swift action on Kavanaugh “shows what a sham this process has been.” Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) joined her in walking out of the room as the Judiciary panel churned towards a Kavanaugh vote later on Friday.
Hirono tweeted that she and Harris decided to leave the room because “Republicans have tossed out all rules and norms to push Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court. We will not be part of this sham.”
While the Senate Democrats acted spontaneously, the House Democratic women planned their visit to the other side of the Capitol to show support for Ford. It was a moment designed to echo the 1991 push by several House Democratic women to get a hearing for Anita Hill’s harassment allegations against Thomas before the Senate moved to a final vote.
That effort didn’t stop Thomas from getting confirmed, of course, and Friday’s House Democratic protest is unlikely to stop Kavanaugh from locking in the votes he needs in the GOP-controlled Senate. But that didn’t stop the women in the House minority, including Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), from heading to the Senate just as their predecessors did in 1991.
“We’ve been talking about it the last two days,” Jayapal said in an interview outside the Judiciary room, crediting Jackson Lee and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) with coordinating the protest.
Jayapal described Senate Republicans’ disinterest in an independent inquiry into Ford’s allegation against Kavanaugh, as well as in subpoenaing a key witness, as “a slap in the face to the #MeToo movement.”
“What does this say to boys and girls across the country, to women across the country who are survivors? And what does it say for the faith of the American people in our Supreme Court?” she asked.
Republicans have said they declined to pursue testimony from Mark Judge, the Kavanaugh friend whom Ford has said was in the room during the alleged assault, because Judge has declined to speak to the committee, citing health problems.