The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote today on whether to move forward with confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. This follows hours of testimony yesterday from Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexual assault. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen joined Morning Edition's Rick Ganley to talk about yesterday's hearing and today's vote.
Note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity
Good morning Senator. I assume you watched a lot of this hearing. How did you feel about it?
Well I had a chance to watch bits and pieces of it. I wasn't able to watch the entire hearing. I thought Christine Ford came across very - I believed what she had to say it was clear that she was relaying memories of something that was very traumatic, that it was very difficult for her to tell her story, not just before the committee but before the entire country. And I thought she was very compelling. I think it underscores why we really need to pause on the vote today, pause on a vote in the full Senate and get a real investigation into what happened. And not just her allegations, but there are other women who have come forward who have been willing to give their names and and talk about their circumstances.
What have you been hearing from your colleagues - fellow senators - what are they saying following these hearings?
Well, it depends on whether you're talking to Democrats or Republicans. Leadership in the Senate Mitch McConnell plans to go forward with the vote today in the Judiciary Committee and I assume he will go forward on the floor of the Senate if he thinks he has the votes. As we know there are still some people who are undecided, and if the votes aren't there I assume he will not go forward.
What's your feeling about how the Senate Judiciary Committee has handled that hearing yesterday? Do you feel it was handled properly?
Well I think there was an effort to be respectful and courteous, and I think their bringing in this outside prosecutor was an effort not to have the eleven Republican men on the Judiciary Committee ganging up on Christine Ford. Although I don't think it really shed - her questions didn't seem to shed much light on the situation. I think the from the very beginning what's been unfortunate has been an unwillingness to actually have the FBI - ask the FBI to investigate these allegations to get some real information from an unbiased party who can talk about what happened there so people can make an independent judgment.
Right now it's very much a question of whether you believe Brett Kavanaugh or whether you believe Christine Ford.
And after all, this it comes down to a “he said she said” situation.
It does. You know, there was, I think, a historic element to that hearing yesterday. That's very important. And that is that there was an opportunity for Christine Ford who so many women in this country can identify with her story, with having been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. And to hear the opportunity for her to tell her story and to be heard - I think is a vindication for many of those women that they can come forward.
Did you feel yesterday did any damage to the committee's process though for vetting Supreme Court candidates? I'm wondering about the future.
I do. I think the fallback position has been rather than talk about the substance of the allegations, rather than get a further investigation which would give us more information about what actually happened, the fallback position has been to manipulate the process to go full speed ahead, to blame the Democrats initially, to blame Dr. Ford for coming forward and to blame Dianne Feinstein for not being willing to come forward earlier with that confidential letter. And that really doesn't get to the foundation of what we all need to know.
One of our responsibilities in the Senate is to advise and consent on nominations. Probably the most important nomination that comes before the Senate is for Supreme Court justice, who not only influences by their decisions so much of what happens in this country, but who sits there for life. And to not take the time to further investigate what happened here or to really look at whether there is corroborating information that can show whether Brett Kavanaugh's telling the truth, that can show whether Dr. Ford's recollections which I thought were very compelling, and I certainly believed were accurate. I mean, that's unfortunate, because that undermines not just the Judiciary Committee but it undermines the Senate and how the Senate operates.
I want to ask you in the brief time that we have - do you think the hearing improved public confidence in the process to confirm Kavanaugh. I'm wondering about what you're hearing from constituents.
It's too soon - we haven't heard yet from a lot of people relative to yesterday. So I think we'll know more in the coming days and weeks how people have reacted.
Are you getting an unusual amount of calls or emails to your office, though?
Well we've gotten over 7000 calls and e-mails throughout the whole process since Judge Kavanaugh has been nominated. Now as I said, we really haven't had time to tabulate and people haven't yet responded because the hearing just happened yesterday.
So it's not clear to me whether we will get a further overwhelming response or not.
People are paying attention, that's for sure.
People are paying attention and I hear from people who are concerned about the process, who are concerned about the country, about the divisions within the country and the fact that this has become such a partisan situation on the Judiciary Committee with Supreme Court nominees when it never used to be.