The presidential bids of Senators Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker haven’t exactly caught fire yet.
All of them are lagging behind in primary polls, struggling to break through in a race that has thus far been dominated by Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and the unlikely burst of South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
But luckily for Harris, Klobuchar, and Booker, they all sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a perch that affords them input on major nominations and a high-profile opportunity to participate in Congress’s response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice. On Wednesday, that meant they each had a nationally televised moment—seven minutes, to be exact—to question, talk over, or simply beat up on Attorney General William Barr for the benefit of their presidential aspirations.
Yet only Harris really took advantage. The first-term California senator—herself a former attorney general, of the nation’s most populous state—brought her skills as a prosecutor to bear as she questioned Barr about his handling of Mueller’s report.
As any casual C-SPAN viewer knows, lawmakers rarely make the most of their opportunity to question high-ranking government officials about the decisions they make on behalf of their constituents. Grandstanding is rampant, and politicians often end up using the precious few minutes they’re allotted to make speeches or merely harangue witnesses instead of trying to elicit useful information or advance a policy debate. Some barely get around to asking a question at all.