Acknowledging that the conditions of hearing currently scheduled for Thursday is fluid, so what will actually happen is speculative, I am asking what I think is a process question.

Reportedly, the majority members of judiciary committee are considering hiring an non-member to question Dr Ford in the public hearing as a proxy for being questioned by of the committee.

This seems to suggest that any member (R/D/I) that wants to exercise their privilege to question a witness is precluded from doing so. One supposes that the chairman would refuse to "give the floor" to other members.

Is my understanding correct, that ALL members could be silenced?

Also, is there any historical precedence for this?

  • I don't have any reference for this, but I just assumed time would be allotted as it is normally between all members of the committee, but that Republican members of the committee would cede their allotted time to whomever they're bringing in to ask questions. If this is the case, then any Democratic members could similarly cede their own time to someone they brought in, or keep it to ask questions themselves. But this is a good questions, I'd like to see if my theory is supported by statements from the committee.
    – BradC
    Sep 24 '18 at 15:32
  • The purpose of most hearings is for legislators to posture themselves in front of the camera. Why would they cede that wonderful opportunity?
    – user4012
    Sep 24 '18 at 19:17
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    @user4012 Well... Partially. But they want to posture for a purpose. In this case the dems are hoping to stretch the process until after the mid-terms, and the reps are hoping not to. So kabuki theater of any sort may be expected.
    – user21424
    Sep 24 '18 at 19:35

Republicans have to walk a fine line here. They have to be critical of Ford, but they can't seem unsympathetic to someone who may have experienced an attempted rape either. The theory behind having a an outside council would be to have a woman do the questioning. In that same vein, they may tap former New Hampshire Senator Kelley Ayotte to question her

Mindful of the optics of an all-male panel grilling an alleged sexual-assault victim, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have begun narrowing their search for an outside counsel to question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser this week.

For Senate Republicans determined to avoid the politically problematic visuals of a panel of older and middle-age men interrogating an alleged sexual-assault victim, Ayotte has the added benefit of a being a woman.

As to the question of Democrats being able to ask questions, Democrats seem to be relying on Senators Klobuchar(MN) and Harris(CA)

On Thursday afternoon, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, said she would be willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week under certain conditions.

If those conditions are met, Democrats have a plan for how to handle the highly delicate proceedings: they’ll lean heavily on two female members to do the brunt of the questioning, aides tell The Daily Beast.

So it's clear Democrats will be able to ask whatever questions they see fit, but they are also considering the optics of who will be questioning a woman making rape allegations.


My understanding is that the Republicans want to have outside counsel to ask questions on their behalf, not necessarily as the sole questioner in the hearings.

Ford's team still wants questioning only by senators, while some on the committee are pushing for a female outside counsel to do at least part of the questioning for the majority. Ford's lawyers also still want some others to testify or be subpoenaed, including Kavanaugh's high school friend Mark Judge, who was identified by Ford as someone else in the room during the alleged assault.

CNN.com - Kavanaugh's accuser accepts request to speak to Judiciary Committee next week

This would mean it would be fine for the Democrats to ask their own questions, and then it offers the GOP a chance to ask hard questions through a woman offering those questions. It is to avoid the optics and a repeat of old white men attacking someone showing up claiming to be a victim, and some of those old white men are the same ones who went after Anita Hill.

While political, by nature, this entire process is especially being driven by mid-term election politics. While there would normally be no reason to oppose having an outside counsel offering questions, or for Senators to want to have an outside counsel offering questions and taking their moment in the TV spotlight, the Democrats and Republicans are both very aware of the history of the Thomas/Hill hearings. The Dems want those optics, so the Democrats are wanting only the Senators to offer their own questions, so they can't hide behind a woman asking their questions if it comes down to what may be perceived or intentionally framed as smearing an accuser again. Mid-term politics is also behind the drive to push this through now, with this candidate, by the GOP, and the repeated efforts to slow and delay the process by the Democrats.

While the article cited states that Ford's lawyers oppose questioning by outside counsel, I'm making the assumption that Dems support that notion, though I may be mistaken on that.

  • 3
    I haven't actually seen anything yet, but I think your assumption is probably correct, that Dems support Ford's lawyers. However, since the Dems are in the minority, can the committee (by majority vote) simply decide that all questioning shall be done by an outside counsel? That is to say, can the committee or the chairman establish rules for that particular hearing? Moreover, has the "notion that all or some members" relinquish their privilege to question a witness to a non-member have some precedence.
    – BobE
    Sep 24 '18 at 17:41
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    @BobE - They definitely can't force the minority or individual Senators to cede their ability to ask questions in hearings. I'm positive about that, and will check for specific rules and references on that. This is about them voluntarily using a proxy. If they were allowed to do that, this current incarnation of the party, in particular, would never allow Dems to ever ask a question about anything, in any committee, on any topic, where they didn't already support the GOP wishes. Sep 24 '18 at 22:25

All that's been decided so far is that she will testify in an open hearing on Thursday, September 27th and will not be forced to be in the same room as Kavanaugh. As of today, Republicans and Democrats are both planning to interview Ford, and the Democrats are planning to have their questioning done by two female senators, while the Republicans are planning on using two female lawyers so as to better insulate themselves against the optics of beating down an alleged rape victim. This will likely change in small ways before Thursday, but it's unlikely to change much.

To get to the meat of your question, Grassley most certainly could choose to not let anyone talk but Ms. Ford and himself. However, he has a vested interest in seeing her allegations quickly quashed so he can rush the nomination through, so he is very unlikely to do this, as he knows the Democrats will put up a huge stink if he does.


No. So what's going on is that as it stands, the Republicans membership of the committee does not have any female members seated on the committee. Some of them want to have a female aid ask their questions for them, some out of genuine respect for Dr. Ford's sensitivities, others to avoid the optics of a bunch of old men asking questions about rape, and some for a mixture of both. I'm not aware of any rules stating committee membership cannot name an aide to ask in their place, so long as the aide asks only the Senator's questions (Senators are quite busy not to mention... old... and holding a hearing while one is on sick leave would seem a poor excuse to cancel on those before the committee, and deny senators their right to ask questions).

Order of questioning usually starts with the chair of the committee (from the majority party), then the ranking member (from the opposition party). Following that, the order is always Majority-Opposition-Maj-Oppo until everyone has their turn. There is a time limit, but I do not know how long this one will be. I also cannot speak to what determines the particular order of the questioning for any one side (that is, among Republicans, who goes after the chair as the next majority call. Same wit the Democrat after the Ranking member).

Now, having said that, there are a few demands from Dr. Ford that are without any precedent and part of this demand is rather bad form. This demand in particular has also banned questioning from Kavanaugh's attorney. Additionally, Kavanaugh was requested to be banned from the room during testimony and must testify first. While the senate does not typically hold hearings on criminal matters, there is Constitutional precedent that holds that the accused be given the right to face his accusers, and examine witnesses and evidence of any wrong doing in addition to being allowed to present his or her own defense to the charges. Be cause of this, in the United States court system, while the term for the accuser changes between the various court systems (prosecution (criminal), plaintiff (civil), appellant (appeals), etc.) must always make their case first, so that the defense (defense (criminal and civil), respondent (appeals), etc.) can no the exact nature of the charges against them.

These are violations of all of the 6th amendment rights afforded to the defense and at least in part the 5th amendment. It should be stated that as the Senate is not deciding on guilt, but on the merits of the accusation as consideration for Kavanaugh's appointment, so this is not a full trial, but a probative matter. However, the request in question, along with the request for Kavanaugh's testimony to her accusation before they are made officially is highly unusual as they require Kavanaugh to testify truthfully vague denials to what will likely be specific details, with no ability to know the details, nor provide evidence that is favorable to him.

  • 8
    Your initial "no" is vague: Are you saying "no, Democratic senators won't be able to ask questions"? Because that doesn't seem to match the rest of your first paragraph (about questioning alternating between party). Your final paragraphs also seem to be editorializing, and don't directly answer the question.
    – BradC
    Sep 24 '18 at 15:43
  • 4
    "While the Senate does not hold hearings on criminal matters" - and then you spend the bulk of your answer talking about provisions that apply to that, while making a disclaimer that it doesn't really apply to this....so, the bulk of your answer is talking about legal provisions that do not apply. -1 for misdirection. Sep 24 '18 at 15:58
  • @PoloHoleSet: You do not lose the rights just because it's not ordinarily done. An under oath testimony such as this could be used in a court of law.
    – hszmv
    Sep 25 '18 at 15:35
  • Those are the standards under which criminal justice actions can be taken by the government. Your rights to protect you from years of potential incarceration in no way equate to the privilege and the responsibility, not the right, of serving on the Supreme Court of the United States. This is a case of completely false equivalence. Just as the standard of "not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" is not the standard that needs to be met when determining to confirm or not. Sep 25 '18 at 16:00
  • @hszmv Those legal arguments don't really apply here; a confirmation hearing is a glorified job interview - Senators can vote for or against a candidate for any reason, or no reason at all. Sure, I appreciate the gravity of given sworn testimony, even though the only likely outcome if Kavenaugh is found to be lying is that he isn't confirmed to the Supreme Court. Frankly, I don't see not wanting to sit directly beside the man who attempted to rape you to be a particularly onerous request.
    – BradC
    Sep 25 '18 at 16:24

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