A scuffle broke out in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. It was about baseball.  

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseGloves come off in Barrett confirmation hearing Senate kicks off fight over Trump’s Supreme Court pick Graham dismisses calls to delay Barrett confirmation hearings MORE (R-Neb.), questioning Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettLike Scalia, Amy Coney Barrett shares an ‘originalist’ view on Second Amendment Senators dial down rhetoric at Barrett hearing after 2018 Kavanaugh brawl Twitter reacts to Barrett misspeaking about approaching cases with an ‘open wine’: ‘Me too, girl’ MORE, issued some fighting words: “I’d like to talk about the Houston Astros, who are miserable cheaters.” 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTexas county says more than 95 percent of eligible voters are registered for this election The Hill’s Campaign Report: Trump, Biden hit campaign trail in Florida Barrett reveals she’s not using notes during confirmation hearing MORE (R-Texas) sitting a row back cut in, quipping: “Thank goodness the First Amendment protects that right.” Fellow Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFive takeaways from Barrett’s Supreme Court grilling Ted Cruz asks Jim Carrey for copy of his ‘hellbound’ Cruz artwork Graham holds 6-point lead in Senate race: poll MORE (R) dramatically slammed his hand on the dais. 

“I was tempted to make a parliamentary inquiry if the unjustified broadside from the senator from Nebraska violates Rule 19 of this body,” Cruz fired back, as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFive takeaways from Barrett’s Supreme Court grilling Barrett says she did not strike down ObamaCare in moot court case Ted Cruz asks Jim Carrey for copy of his ‘hellbound’ Cruz artwork MORE (R-S.C.) could be heard muttering “here we go.” 

The quips are a 180 from the political firestorm the Judiciary Committee found itself at the center of in 2018 as it considered Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGraham holds 6-point lead in Senate race: poll Barrett refuses to say if she would recuse herself from election-related cases The abortion battle is set to get worse, regardless of who replaces RBG MORE’s Supreme Court nomination. 

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), giving his opening statement this week, described the 2018 bloodbath as a “freak show.”  

“It looked like the cantina bar scene out of Star Wars,” Kennedy added.  

The first three days of Barrett’s hearing decidedly did not. 

Graham went viral in 2018 when he lashed out, growing red in the face as he yelled at Democrats on the panel.

“What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life,” he had shouted. 

This week, he’s defended the process he established for moving Barrett’s nomination but also tipped his hand to Democratic frustrations.  

“To my Democratic colleagues, I understand where you’re coming from. I understand what you want the court to do. You want the court to do things different than we do. I don’t question your motives, and I want to thank you for conducting this hearing in a way that has been respectful, has been challenging, and the process will be moving forward here,” Graham said on Wednesday. 

Asked about the difference on Wednesday, Graham thanked colleagues for being respectful to both Barrett and to Republicans on the committee. 

“This is the way it could be, it should be, but to my colleagues, you’ve allowed the judge to answer hard questions completely. We have different views about what her answer means. But to me, this is a standard going forward,” he said. 

Part of the change in tone boils down to the set up the hearing itself.

During the fight over Kavanaugh, protesters lined the hallways around the Judiciary Committee hearing room, staked out senators at unrelated hearings and went viral with their interactions with lawmakers. During the hearing itself, senators were frequently interrupted by protesters in the audience and women wearing red habits modeled after the “Handmaid’s Tale” lined the hallways. 

Now, the Capitol has been closed since earlier this year due to the spread of the coronavirus. No members of the public are allowed into the office buildings without an appointment, and the audience in the room itself was limited to a handful of reporters, Barrett’s family and a small number of seats for invited guests.

“I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we don’t have an audience and the protest and the police having to intervene. So I think it’s made for a more civil hearing,” Cornyn said.  

The panel hit technical difficulties on Wednesday when microphones in the room temporarily cut out. A group of senators, including Cornyn, Durbin, Cruz and Graham, could be heard laughing loudly as they huddled in the back of the room. 

There were flashes of frustration over the three days. Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyOvernight Health Care: Barrett says she’s ‘not hostile’ toward Affordable Care Act | Nominee says she doesn’t classify Roe v Wade as ‘superprecedent’ | Eli Lilly pauses study of COVID-19 treatment over safety concerns Barrett refuses to express views on landmark abortion cases Democrats steer clear of Barrett’s religion during Supreme Court hearing MORE (R-Mo.) accused Democrats of trying to “bork” Barrett, a reference to Robert Bork, whose 1980s Supreme Court nomination was rejected. Kennedy said Democrats called Barrett “a liar.” 

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseFive takeaways from Barrett’s Supreme Court grilling Democrats warn of ObamaCare threat from Barrett, Trump Gloves come off in Barrett confirmation hearing MORE (D-R.I.) namechecked Cornyn in his speech on Tuesday, and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris raises alarm on abortion rights while grilling Barrett Trump hits Biden on fracking in appeal to Pennsylvania voters Kamala Harris and the stereotypes we place on Black women MORE (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice presidential nominee and a member of the panel, referenced several states where GOP members on the committee are up for reelection. 

While the overall temperature inside the room has been lowered, the stakes of Barrett’s nomination are high.  

Republicans will set a precedent for how close to a presidential election a nominee can be confirmed if they put Barrett on the bench later this month. Barrett, if she’s confirmed, will lock in a 6-3 conservative majority for decades, with one Washington Post analysis predicting it would be the most conservative Supreme Court since 1950.  

Progressives wanted Democrats to pull out all the stops to protest the GOP’s plan and underscore that Barrett could not be treated like a normal nominee.  

Democrats, while digging in on her views on issues like health care, voting rights and the Second Amendment, have kept things from getting personal, avoided Barrett’s religion altogether and bantered with the judge.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFive takeaways from Barrett’s Supreme Court grilling Barrett declines to say if Trump can unilaterally delay election Barrett sidesteps Democratic questions amid high-stakes grilling MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, complemented Barrett on Tuesday and Wednesday on her family. 

“Judge, it’s wonderful to see you here, also with a family that I have been observing. They sit still, quiet. You’ve done a very good job,” Feinstein said on Tuesday as she started her questions. 

Feinstein added on Wednesday she was “delighted” to see her family and that “this is really a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. So I hope they find it very special in their lives.” 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s (D-Conn.) questioning of Barrett on Wednesday began with a friendly joke as he told her that he hoped she “got some rest.” 

“I did have a glass of wine. I’ll tell you that I needed that at the end of the day,” Barrett replied.  

Blumenthal, with a smile, joked back: “Let me just say on that kind of point you have a right to remain silent.” 

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