The Senate Judiciary Committee Follies Revisited

Now that the smoke has cleared from the Kavanaugh nomination, The Curmudgeon would like to revisit a few aspects of the Senate committee process that led to Kavanaugh’s regrettable confirmation that flew a little under the radar.

Traditionally, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee ask questions of court nominees – especially nominees to the Supreme Court.  They also ask questions of major witnesses testifying about those nominees.

When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified, however, Democratic members of the committee questioned Dr. Ford but Republican members delegated that responsibility to a surrogate.  Without question, they did so because they were uncomfortable with how it would appear for eleven white men to question a woman about an alleged sexual assault by the nominee.  They clearly had learned their lesson well from the Anita Hill hearing of 1991.

The way Senate Republicans went about this was deeply flawed.  They have many, many female lawyers on the committee’s staff – The Curmudgeon knows, he checked – but they apparently considered none of them up to the challenge of asking the questions.  This leads one, if nothing else, to question the value of having all those particular lawyers on the public payroll.

Another problem was hiring an experienced sex crimes prosecutor to ask the questions. That prosecutor may have been well-suited to ask questions of Judge Kavanaugh, but of Dr. Ford?  SHE wasn’t accused of any sex crimes, yet she was treated by the committee as if she was suspected of one.

Yet another problem was that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, suffering from terminal tone deafness and stupidity, referred to that prosecutor given temp work by the committee as a “female assistant.”  Really?  He referred to an experienced career prosecutor hired by Republicans on the committee to bail themselves out of a tight spot as a “female assistant”?

When it was over, reporters asked the committee’s chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, why there were no Republican women on his committee.

He could have observed that there are only six Republican women in the entire Senate and that there simply aren’t enough to go around.  That answer doesn’t reflect well on Republicans, to be sure, but it would’ve been a pretty benign explanation.

But no, he didn’t say that.  What he did say, as reported by Vox, is that

“It’s a lot of work — maybe they don’t want to do it,” Grassley said. “My chief of staff of 33 years tells me we’ve tried to recruit women and we couldn’t get the job done.”

Seriously, that’s what he said.

“Step aside, ladies. The Judiciary Committee is men’s work.”

Let us put aside for now the suggestion that committee staff recruits members of Senate committees; that’s utterly ridiculous.

Grassley asserted that being on the Senate Judiciary Committee is a lot of work and it looks to him as if women in the Senate don’t want to work that hard. When it was brought to his attention that he had said something incredibly stupid he immediately began to hem and haw and walk back his remarks, but in the ensuing fuss one thing got overlooked.

There ARE four women on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Diane Feinstein.

Amy Klobuchar.

Kamala Harris.

Mazie Hirono.

All Democrats.

Using Grassley’s warped logic, it appears that Democrats aren’t as deterred by hard work as Republicans.

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