WASHINGTON — Sen. Rob Portman capped a long and contentious first day of confirmation hearings Tuesday for Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh with the warmest of words, calling the Donald Trump appointee "an extraordinary nominee in every respect" who "deserves broad support."
The Ohio Republican spoke during the late hours of a particularly testy first day of hearings, with protestors frequently shouting interruptions and Democrats repeatedly and futilely introducing motions to delay the hearings after the White House released 42,000 pages of documents on Kavanaugh the night before the hearing. Democrats said they had not had enough time to review the documents and called for an extension in order to review the documents.
"We should not be moving forward with this hearing," said Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat. "The American people deserve better than this."
After hours of opening statements from senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Portman, who worked with Kavanaugh in the George W. Bush White House, was one of three to introduce Kavanaugh. He joined former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and attorney Lisa Blatt in introducing Kavanaugh. Rice called him "just a very good human being" and "an old soul who is made to steady us in these complicated times."
During his brief comments introducing Kavanaugh, Portman said he recently spoke with former President George W. Bush and he called Kavanaugh "a class act." He also praised Kavanaugh's family, including his mother, Martha, who went to law school at age 34 and eventually became a trial judge.
And he praised Kavanaugh personally, calling him "thoughtful and compassionate and someone who has a big heart and the humility to listen." Hours after Kavanaugh and Portman met in Portman’s office to discuss his nomination, Portman said, Kavanaugh went on to serve dinner to the homeless through his church.
Portman found out about it online after someone recognized him and tweeted a photo of Kavanaugh, clad in a baseball cap, working in a soup kitchen.
Portman has supported Kavanaugh enthusiastically since Trump nominated him in July, posting a video online about his friendship, making TV appearances to tout Kavanaugh’s nomination and, most recently, helping prepare him for his confirmation hearings.
But mostly, Portman praised Kavanaugh’s experience and background, which includes more than 300 published opinions, his experience teaching at Harvard, Yale and Georgetown law schools, and the fact that the Supreme Court has adopted his reasoning 13 times.
"In my view, there is not a better-qualified person to be on that court," Portman said.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, signaled last month that he would not support Kavanaugh, saying in a written statement then he had "serious concerns" about some of Kavanaugh’s rulings on women’s rights and consumer rights. On Tuesday, his campaign sent out a fund-raising solicitation where Brown reiterated that he’s a "no."
"I have already come out in opposition because I work for the people of Ohio, not the special interests," he wrote. "I do not believe he would put working families’ interests first."