Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) sparred with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) during a heated spat on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Both senators were taking part in the third day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, and things got contentious when Durbin — who Cruz said had taken up some of his time with interruptions — attempted to move on before Cruz got an answer from Judge Jackson to a question about the sentence she imposed in a child pornography case.
Cruz was just nearing the end of his scheduled time — and Durbin moved to cut him off — but the Texas Senator objected, claiming that Durbin had already taken up some of his time with interruptions.
“You’ve been given extra time. You usually ask for it, you’re given it,” Durbin pushed back.
“Okay, I know you want to interrupt. I know you don’t like this line of questions —” Cruz continued.
“I just want you to play by the rules,” Durbin said.
“I know you like to interrupt, but you’ve consumed a substantial question — time of my questioning,” Cruz continued. “I’m going to ask my questions and you can, if you want to testify, you’re welcome to.”
Cruz then turned back to Judge Jackson, laying out some of the details of a specific child pornography case in which Jackson had imposed the sentence.
“In the Stewart case, you said from the bench, ‘Thus, although this is not necessarily an atypical case, your child pornography possession crime was egregious in the court’s view,'” Cruz quoted, adding, “Okay, so this is a bad one. If you’re actually sentencing defendants, you said this was egregious. What did you sentence Stewart for? The guidelines said 97-121 months. Prosecutors said 97 months. You said, ‘It’s egregious,’ 6,700 images, and you come in at 57 months.”
Durbin interrupted again, saying that Cruz was over his allotted time and turning to recognize Senator Chris Coons (D-DE).
Cruz continued to talk over Durbin, saying that he’d take an answer from Jackson on any of the cases he’d asked about, he has just held up that specific one as an example.
“You’re not recognized, Senator,” Durbin said.
“Do you not want her to answer that question?” Cruz asked Durbin.
“You wouldn’t allow her anyway,” Durbin grumbled.
“Mr. Chairman, she may answer the question. I’ve asked her why she sentenced Stewart, an egregious —”
“Senator, you’re over time by two minutes,” Durbin interrupted again.
“Because you’ve interrupted me for two minutes,” Cruz replied. “Mister Chairman, will you allow her to answer the question, or do you not want the American people to hear why, with someone she described as an ‘egregious’ —”
“There comes a point, Senator, where you get a little bit —” Durbin interrupted.
“Chairman Durbin, will you allow her to answer the question?” Cruz asked again.
“You won’t allow her to answer the question,” Durbin objected.
The two continued to talk over each other, and Durbin once again attempted to recognize Senator Coons.
“Why are you not allowing her to answer the question? There’s not another Senator here that you’ve not allowed her to answer the question,” Cruz pressed again.
“You’re finished,” Durbin declared, as Cruz continued to protest that he was not trying to ask another question, only to get an answer to the question he had already asked. “Why do you not want the American people to know what happened in the Stewart case? Or any of these cases? I’ve never seen the chairman refuse to allow a witness to answer a question.”
Durbin grabbed his gavel then, and banged it forcefully on the desk several times, prompting Cruz to respond, “You can bang it as loud as you want.”
Durbin told Cruz that he had to follow the rules, and after another brief back-and-forth between the two, he once again turned to recognize Senator Coons.
“So no, you don’t want her to answer the question,” Cruz concluded.