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WATCH LIVE: Kavanaugh Defends Judicial Record As Dems Focus On Hot-Button Issues

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Via NPR
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Judiciary Committee members Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. (left) and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., confer as Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the committee Wednesday during his confirmation hearings.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is back at the witness table Thursday, after fielding more than 10 hours of questions on Wednesday. Senate Democrats challenged his record on hot-button issues such as abortion, affirmative action and presidential power.

Thursday's session began with committee Democrats in open revolt over the handling of documents from Kavenaugh's tenure in the George W. Bush White House. Some documents have been withheld altogether. Others have been provided to the committee on "confidential" terms, meaning Senators can see them but they can't be made public.

Democrats object that confidential label has been applied to a wide swath of records, many of which contain no personal or sensitive information. They also complain that classification decisions were made by former President Bush's attorney, William Burke, a former deputy of Kavanaugh's.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., threatened to made confidential documents public in an act of civil disobedience, even though such action carries a possible penalty of expulsion from the Senate.

Separately, the New York Times reported on leaked emails from the "confidential" file. One is an email drafted by Kavanaugh in 2003, in which he questioned whether the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion should be described as "settled law of the land."

During the committee's hearing Wednesday, Kavanaugh said he understands the weight that many people attach to Roe v. Wade. But, pressed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., he declined to say whether that case was properly decided.

Kavanaugh also sidestepped questions from Booker about the circumstances in which government can and cannot use race-conscious measures to address past discrimination.

He conceded that hopes he expressed nearly two decades ago for a color-blind society have not been fulfilled.

"We see on an all too common basis that racism still exists in the United States of America," Kavanaugh said. "Our long march to racial equality is not over."

Kavanaugh said he would not have any trouble ruling against the president who nominated him to the high court, praising justices who had done so in the past. But he declined to weigh in on President Trump's recent tweets, criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the prosecution of two GOP lawmakers.

"I don't think we want judges commenting on the latest political controversy," Kavanaugh said. "That would ultimately lead the people to doubt whether we're independent, whether we're politicians in robes."

Kavanaugh will field a second, shorter round of questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Barring surprises, he appears likely to win confirmation in time to take his place on the bench when the Supreme Court begins its fall term next month.