Grassley requests some but not all of Kavanaugh papers at Bush White House
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October MORE (R-Iowa) is escalating a battle with Democrats over documents tied to Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, requesting that only some of the papers demanded by the minority be turned over.

Grassley in a letter sent on behalf of the Senate Judiciary Committee requested documents tied to Kavanaugh's work as a White House lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, but not tied to his work as staff secretary for the Bush White House.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee immediately criticized Grassley's decision, which came after days of rhetorical firefighting and a flurry of letters between senators.

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"What is so disqualifying in his record from the White House that they would accede to the administration’s wishes and ignore the precedent Republicans set in demanding exhaustive document productions by Obama nominees?" Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Democrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight MORE (D-R.I.), a member of the committee, said in a statement.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa Kamala Harris rallies voters in South Carolina On The Money: Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi summit | Consumer bureau to probe controversial blog posts on race | Harris proposes new middle-class tax credit MORE (D-Calif.), another member of the committee, added that "the majority’s opposition to transparency is as new as it is dangerous."

Democrats argue documents from Kavanaugh's time as staff secretary are crucial for understanding his thinking on some of the most controversial policies of the Bush administration, including torture and surveillance.

But Republicans had dismissed their broader request as a "fishing expedition," and characterized Kavanaugh's work as a staff secretary as a "paper pusher" that would shed little light on his judicial philosophy.

"I expect the production to be the largest ever in the Senate’s consideration of a Supreme Court nominee. ... As I have said repeatedly, I am not going to put the American taxpayers on the hook for the Senate Democrats’ fishing expedition," Grassley said in a statement.

Grassley added on Friday that he had been trying to negotiate with Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSen. Walter Huddleston was a reminder that immigration used to be a bipartisan issue GOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Feinstein would 'absolutely' reopen Kavanaugh investigation if Dems win Senate MORE (D-Calif.) for nearly two weeks to reach a "good-faith agreement."

"I’ve found myself either waiting for a response to my proposals or faced with unprecedented and unreasonable counter-proposals," he said.

He added that Democrats want a "search of every email from every one of the hundreds of White House staffers who served alongside Judge Kavanaugh for nearly six years, to find records that merely mention his name."

Grassley's decision could limit Democrats' ability to get documents from Kavanaugh's work as staff secretary.

The National Archives in a letter to Feinstein said that a committee's power to request documents under the Presidential Records Act rests with a panel’s chairmen, who are all Republicans.

But Feinstein fired back in a letter to the agency released on Friday that they have to respond to requests from both Republicans and Democrats.

“Your unduly restrictive reading of the law results in one political party having complete control over what records the Senate will be able to see,” she wrote, adding that “a biased denial of document requests to one half of the Committee is unsupported by the law.”