The chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee says he’ll hold a full and fair hearing on allegations of sexual assault by a nominee to the Supreme Court, scheduled for this coming Monday. The committee's past handling of similiar reports had sweeping political consequences.
Professor Christine Blasey Ford is accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of attacking her at a party three deacdes ago, when both were underage high school students.
While there are clear differences between the cases, there are some similarities between Blasey Ford's allegations against Kavanaugh, and those brought by Anita Hill against then-nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991. Both women are accomplished professors, and their reports surfaced when the nominees were poised to be confirmed. Both Thomas and Kavanaugh have denied committing the alleged offenses.
Writing an opinion piece in the New York Times, Anita Hill herself said the connections between the two cases are clear.
"[I]t’s impossible to miss the parallels between the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing of 2018 and the 1991 confirmation hearing for Justice Clarence Thomas," Hill wrote in the piece, published Tuesday.
The committee’s past handling of Hill's testimony spurred outrage among many and ignited a political awakening. After watching an all white, all male Judiciary Committee question Hill, who is black, voters elected a wave of female lawmakers at a time when there were only two women serving in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, now Ranking Member on the committee, was among those elected in what is now called the "Year of the Woman".
Current Judiciary Chair Sen. Chuck Grassley says whether this committee's handling of Blasey Ford's allegations will have any parallel impacts on the 2018 midterms is "pure speculation".
“I’m not looking back at Anita Hill, I’m looking forward," Grassley said. "And right now I’m looking forward to Monday.”
Grassley is one of three current committee members who also sat on the Judiciary during the 1991 Hill-Thomas hearings, the others being Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, and Patrick Leahy, D-VT.
In her piece for the New York Times, Hill wrote that while the American people "expects better from our government than we got in 1991", she worries a lack of protocols on how to address reports of sexual harassment and assualt shows "the committee has learned little" from the testimony heard in 1991.
On a conference call with reporters, Grassley said he and his Republican colleagues are taking the allegations "very seriously".
“I intend to be respectful. These are very worthwhile things for us…they’re very necessary things for us to be looking in to," Grassley said. "I hope my colleagues will be as respectful too.”
The committee is slated to take testimony from Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh on Monday. Grassley scheduled the special hearing after lawmakers in both parties demanded more information about the allegations.