WASHINGTON – Sen. Amy Klobuchar had a straightforward question Friday for her Republican colleagues who were resisting pursuing an FBI investigation of the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“What are you hiding?” the Minnesota Democrat demanded.
Her 15-minute speech, in which she ripped Republicans for trying to move too quickly to make a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court while also criticizing Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy, captivated onlookers and electrified supporters of the judge’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
Not long afterward, Klobuchar played a central role in changing the confirmation process. She was among a small group of Democrats who huddled privately with Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, the only Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee to openly display some ambivalence about putting Kavanaugh on the court with no further investigation.
Minutes later, Flake emerged to seek a weeklong delay in the final Senate vote on Kavanaugh to allow the FBI more time to investigate. Senate GOP leaders, knowing they lacked the votes needed for confirmation, were forced to make the request for the FBI probe to the White House.
For Klobuchar, her Friday speech and the subsequent success in delaying a final vote on Kavanaugh were the latest in a handful of spotlight moments during two days of historic hearings — perhaps the most dramatic convergence of politics and the #MeToo movement to date.
From the beginning and again Friday, Klobuchar criticized the process followed by Judiciary Committee Republicans as “not normal.” Noting that the committee’s chairman had thanked Ford for her bravery in testifying publicly about her allegations, Klobuchar asked: “Well, where is the bravery in this room?”
Klobuchar said the FBI should be given a “finite period” in which to make further inquiries — even just a week. The Judiciary Committee advanced Kavanaugh’s nomination on a vote of 11-10, with all Republicans, including Flake, in support. All of the Democrats, including Klobuchar, voted no.
Klobuchar often displays bipartisan instincts and is known to mention her work with Republicans. But in her Friday morning speech, she blasted claims that Democrats are playing politics regarding Kavanaugh.
“When I heard this sanctimonious talk about some kind of political strategy, welcome to Exhibit A: Merrick Garland,” said Klobuchar, referring to President Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, whom Republicans refused to even consider.
Klobuchar did not limit her criticism to the Republican-led committee’s process. She also took aim at Kavanaugh’s fitness for the high court.
Kavanaugh, Klobuchar said, was “hand-picked by a president who’s constantly undermining law enforcement, constantly undermining the FBI.” She said Trump “picked a nominee who has the most expansive view of executive power that we’ve seen.”
A day earlier, Klobuchar’s questioning of Kavanaugh earned national notice in an exchange about his drinking habits. When she asked Kavanaugh whether he had ever blacked out from drinking, he petulantly shot back the question at her, asking if she ever had. He later apologized to Klobuchar, who has openly talked of growing up as the child of an alcoholic parent.