Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, said the Senate and its Judiciary Committee are no longer the "independent branch of government" they're supposed to be.
Instead, it's "an arm — and a very weak arm — of the Trump White House," he said.
Here's how he opened his statement to the committee today:
"It feels like 'Alice in Wonderland' around here. It's unbelievable where we are today. It's almost surreal. This Judiciary Committee is no longer an independent branch of government. And we're supposed to be. The Senate is supposed to be an independent, equal branch of government. We're no longer that. We are an arm — and a very weak arm — of the Trump White House. Every semblance of independence has just disappeared. It's gone. And I think that is something historians will look at, and they'll call it a turning point in the United States Senate."
Watch the moment:
Democratic Senators Mazie Hirono, Kamala Harris, Richard Blumenthal, and Sheldon Whitehouse just explained why they walked out.
Sen. Mazie Hirono said it's "because it’s very clear that the Republicans will break every norm, every rule, to get this person on the Supreme Court." She said Brett Kavanaugh would arrive with "a cloud" and would "weaken the court" as a result. "This has got to stop. So I walked out. I’m not going to participate in this charade anymore," she said.
Sen. Kamala Harris said, "From top to bottom this has been about bullies. Listen to the people. All we have asked for is that there be an FBI investigation."
She said Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford "poured out her heart and "gave the process dignity and respect."
"The least we could do is give her the dignity and respect of a process that has credibility," she said. "We are talking about putting on the United States Supreme Court for a lifetime."
"For the sake of our democracy and the integrity of our democracy you would think that members of the United States Senate would say wait a minute, there’s enough here to push pause," she said. "Let’s reflect on what we’re about to do."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal added, "All of America is watching the United State’s Senate today... and they should be deeply embarrassed ... there are two who should be called as witnesses ... there needs to be an FBI investigation ..”
Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Mazie Hirono, three of the Democrats who just walked out of the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, are speaking outside the room now.
Republicans are continuing their meeting inside.
Harris, alongside Sen. Cory Booker, refused to vote when the committee was voting on a motion to hold the Brett Kavanaugh vote later this afternoon.
Blumenthal introduced a motion to a subpoena Mark Judge — who Christine Blasey Ford says was in the room when she was allegedly attacked by Kavanaugh — but it was voted down.
Joined by their House colleagues
Moments after the senators left, a number of House Democratic women who were watching as spectators, including Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Pramila Jayapal, Sheila Jackson Lee and Barbara Lee, stood up in silence for a few minutes — then walked out as well.
Sen. Jeff Flake, who was just confronted by two sexual assault survivors who accused him of telling women their assaults don't matter after he announced he would vote to support Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, has been frowning since he arrived at the markup meeting.
Last night, after leaving the hours-long testimony that featured compelling testimony from both Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh, Flake told CNN, "This is a tough decision, it really is."
When his friend Democratic Sen. Chris Coons learned he'd vote yes just before this morning's meeting, Coons said, "Oh, f--k," thought for a moment and added, "We each make choices for our own reason. I’m struggling, sorry."
At least five Democrats walked out of today's meeting after the Senate Judiciary Committee moved to vote later today on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Kamala Harris, Sheldon Whitehouse and Mazie Hirono left the room as Chairman Chuck Grassley was giving an opening statement. Sen. Patrick Leahy left a bit later.
Watch the moment:
There's a large, chaotic protest underway at the Dirksen Senate Office Building just down the hall from the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room.
Demonstrators are blowing the whistles in an apparent attempt to drown out the Capitol Police’s instructions.
They are chanting, “November is coming,” and blowing whistles to drown out the Capitol Police who are attempting to shout instructors.
Some are sitting down and police are getting plastic handcuffs, indicating arrests are likely to follow. The press is being pushed away from the protest.
The Judiciary Committee will vote on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court at 1:30 p.m. ET.
The motion to vote was just approved 11-8. Booker and Harris declined to vote in protest.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal just moved to subpoena Mark Judge, who Christine Blasey Ford says was in the room at the time that she was allegedly assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh.
Ten senators voted to subpoena him, while 11 voted no. The motion was defeated along party lines.
Here's what Blumenthal previously said to the committee:
"The third person allegedly in the room was Mark Judge. Evidently, he has never been interviewed by the FBI. He has never been questioned by any member of our committee. He has never submitted a detailed account of what he knows," he said. "And, so, I move, Mr. Chairman, that we have him before this committee as a witness."
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons was just informed of Sen. Jeff Flake’s intended yes vote as he was going into the Judiciary Committee.
He got very emotional and was silent for a few seconds. “I deeply respect...” he started. Then he paused.
“We each make choices for our own reason. I’m struggling, sorry.”
Coons and Flake are good friends.