How does one get a seat into the confirmation hearings? In watching the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, there seems to be a sort of spectrum of people allowed in the room. The people sitting on the right hand of Kavanaugh seem to be his family, but who are the people sitting on his left hand- his law clerks? However, there are also a lot of protesters in the room, which makes me wonder about the security. Do you just walk in in a first-come basis and get a pat-down before entering or does one need like a press pass or such?

Disagree with the duplicate as the linked question appears to be referring to general sessions of the House and Senate, while I’m talking about a confirmation hearing, which is a completely different event held in a completely different place from general sessions of the House and Senate.

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    @default locale Disagree with the duplicate as the linked question appears to be referring to general sessions of the House and Senate, while I’m talking about a confirmation hearing, which is a completely different event held in a completely different place from general sessions of the House and Senate.
    – burrito77
    Sep 6 '18 at 22:34
  • Makes sense, I've retracted my close vote. I think that the process will be the same for visitors (protestors). Sep 6 '18 at 22:43

Unless the committee is specifically in closed session, the public may walk into any committee hearing at any time, no charge or fee needed. Congress is "the People's House" and part of the set up government is that citizens may freely walk the halls and attempt to talk to politicians who were making their rounds. Speaking as a political nerd, it's kind of fun to be walking the halls of Congress and have an famous senator or representative walk past you (I geeked out when I realized a politician I love walked past me on an escalator. Also, politicians have a pin that they all wear that identifies them as a politician as opposed to a staffer or a lobbyist of press).

The only tickets issued are for the floors of Congress, which can be denied if there is sufficient reason to believe there is going to be some major cause to the gallery having a full attendance (in both houses, the gallery seating runs around the perimeter of the floor, so on a regular day, you can get in without much hassle... don't just show up to attend the State of the Union without an invite.). Typically, you are not allowed on the floor unless invited by a member (Even the President cannot waltz onto the floor during the State of the Union... He must be invited, which is why someone will address the Speaker of the House that the President has arrived before he enters the room to give his address.). You are not allowed to speak or engage in any intentional outbursts during a hearing or while in the gallery and you will be escorted out of the room if you become disruptive. The Gallery has capitol police on guard at all times just to pull out someone who is being disruptive and committees typically have a few by the doors as well.

As there is no assigned seating for the remaining spectator seats, if a major committee is hearing testimony, there may be a line with first come first serve seating enforced. The police will keep an eye on when people leave and new people enter. Those wearing articles of clothing that are disruptive (such as political slogans that are noticeable at a distance) may be barred from entry, but beyond that, they need good reason to keep you out. What is likely going on in the SCOTUS issue is that protesters have entered the line and mixed with people who actually want to watch the hearing in person. When one is disruptive, they are taken out and the next person is permitted entry... and if they too are a protestor, lather rinse and repeat.

If you cannot go to Washington just to sit in committees all day, fear not, as C-SPAN records all business before Congress including committees not closed to the public and will have them online within the day for public consumption. You'll also notice (At least among the Representatives, I've yet to sit in on a Senate Committee) that unless it's a very newsworthy hearing, Reps will not sit for the full committee unless they are the Chair or the Opposition leader of the committee... typically they arrive before their time for questioning and quickly depart, but there are always a few on both sides at any given moment. They do have a busy day and don't always have the time to listen to the full testimony... they have staffers to digest it for them if there are any issues raised when they leave.


To answer a follow up question that posed, getting into Congress building itself is not terribly hard. Security is pretty typical of any government building (think any U.S. Court House) and will require passing items through an x-ray machine and walking through a metal detector and possibly an additional magnetic wand. Visitors will be given a visitor clip tag or sticker to denote who they are. I would recommend you check the official congress website for more details as the last time I personally went in, I was a guest of a congressional staffer and not some guy who walked in off the street. I would also recommend you contact your Representative's and Senators' office about a potential visit as they will typically be helpful... your Representative is the better option as their office is typically not as busy as a Senator's office and it's easier for them to make appointments to actually meet with you.

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    Interesting answer. I never knew it was that open. You might want to add a note about security to get into the building (I'm sure they run people thorough a metal detector, for example) for completeness' sake.
    – Bobson
    Sep 7 '18 at 18:47
  • @hszmv agree with bobson, and also just wondering who the people in the front rows are. I know that the people who were sitting on Kavanaugh's right side were his family, but do you know the names of the people sitting to his left?
    – burrito77
    Sep 7 '18 at 19:49
  • @burrito77: Not sure. Typically, the people in the hearing who are not his family are aides who will be helping him to answer the questions posed to him. Typically they're more civil servants who were not directly appointed but have been with the agency in question long enough to be able to provide answers and information that the nominee may need to know during the process. I do not know what agencies supply these answers for SCOTUS nominiees.
    – hszmv
    Sep 10 '18 at 14:28
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    @Bobson: Added... again, personal experience might be different as my last visit was at the invititation of a congressional staffer. If you schedule ahead of time, you want to reach out to your Represative's office as they can arrange private tours given by staffers as well as meetings to discuss your issues. Senators can do this as well, but they're offices tend to be busier than Rep's and you may have issues getting a meeting.
    – hszmv
    Sep 10 '18 at 14:39
  • @burrito77 You can ask a new question about identifying the notable people in the picture. We have a few questions like that on the site already. Sep 10 '18 at 17:57

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