Washington, D.C.

Region’s House members weigh in on Kavanaugh

Tonko: 'I think it is just the latest installment of the very deep polarization that has gripped the country'
Congressman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, in June 2016.
Congressman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, in June 2016.

Despite not having a vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, local members of Congress weighed in Friday on the controversy that has gripped the nation.

“I think it is just the latest installment of the very deep polarization that has gripped the country, and it’s regrettable because you had lives forever damaged here,” Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said in a phone interview from Washington. “And certainly Kavanaugh’s accusers, if their allegations are accurate, have not been served well, and his family members have been taken through some very difficult moments.”

For Tonko, the biggest issue at hand was the way in which the allegations against Kavanaugh were handled.

“The bottom line is, it’s regrettable — what was the rush?” Tonko said. “You’re appointing someone to the highest court in the land, and there should be such integrity and such due process that should have accompanied that effort that the nation was shortchanged.”

To the south, Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, issued a statement firmly supporting Kavanaugh after the results of a followup investigation by the FBI were shown to senators.

“With the completion of the additional FBI investigation and no proof to corroborate any of the allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh, I continue to support his confirmation based upon his qualifications, record and writings from the bench,” Faso said in the statement. “Democratic leaders should be ashamed for the despicable manner in which they handled these allegations against Judge Kavanaugh and their blatant attempt to assassinate his character and derail a confirmation that they opposed from the day he was nominated, instead of caring about the actual truth. Their vile attacks represent a gross distortion of fundamental legal principles of due process and the presumption of innocence. I am happy that the Senate has agreed to move forward with his confirmation.”

Tonko called the disregard by Senate Republicans for allegations against Kavanaugh “deplorable and dishonorable.” The congressman also took issue with President Donald Trump’s handling of the allegations.

“It’s unfortunate,” Tonko said. “I think the whole effort to seat someone on the highest court in the land requires us to be honorable and thorough, and I found it to be short in those measurements. When they called for an investigation, and the president committed to the nation that anyone and everyone would be interviewed … He misled the nation. He really limited who could be reviewed and interviewed in the investigation.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, issued a statement earlier in the week that distanced herself from Trump’s mocking of one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, at a campaign rally in Mississippi. 

On Friday, Stefanik’s office issued a statement from Deputy Chief of Staff Tom Flanagin. 

“Congresswoman Stefanik believes both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh provided compelling testimony and believes moving forward with the FBI investigation was the right thing to do,” Flanagin said in the statement. “Congresswoman Stefanik believes this is a broken process that needs to be reformed and that Senator [Dianne] Feinstein [D-Calif.] should have turned over information this important to the nomination sooner.”

After Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins voiced her support for Kavanaugh in a floor speech Friday afternoon, Tonko worried about the concern senators had for the truth and standing of the Supreme Court throughout the confirmation process.

“What came about from all of this is doubt about where the truth lies,” Tonko said. “We do know from the appearance of both of them before the Senate committee that Judge Kavanaugh offered such an unacceptable tone and rancor and vitriol and political spin, and almost a revengeful tone, that he himself had to apologize. That’s a demeanor not befitting of the courts.”

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