Judiciary committee votes to send Brett Kavanaugh nomination to full Senate
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along partisan lines Friday to advance the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh after securing a key vote from Sen. Jeff Flake, who asked for a delay of up to a week before the full Senate votes.
Flake, R-Ariz., said the delay would allow a limited FBI investigation of allegations of sexual assault while Kavanaugh was a teenager.
Do you agree with the Judiciary Committee’s decision to send Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate despite Sen. Jeff Flake’s call to delay a Kavanaugh vote?
— TribLIVE.com (@TribLIVE) September 28, 2018
The 11-to-10 vote came a day after hearing riveting testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused President Donald Trump’s nominee of sexual assault at a house party in Maryland in the early 1980s.
Flake’s request cast doubt on whether the full Senate would take a procedural vote on Saturday, as previously announced, as other wavering lawmakers seem likely to join Flake.
While the timing of the floor vote is up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell , R-Ky., Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa said he would advocate for Flake’s request.
“This is all a gentlemen’s and women’s agreement,” Grassley said after the committee vote.
Speaking to reporters at the White House after the committee vote, Trump said he would defer to Senate leaders on how to proceed with his nominee. “Whatever they think is necessary is okay,” Trump said.
He continued to stand by Kavanaugh, saying he had not thought “even a little bit” about a replacement but also said he found Ford a “credible witness.”
As Kavanaugh’s nomination heads to the floor, his prospects remain unclear in the full Senate.
Four senators considered swing votes – Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – remained silent about their intentions Friday.
A red-state Democrat, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., announced Friday that he would oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. Republicans had been courting Donnelly, one of three Democrats, along with Manchin and Heitkamp, who supported previous Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil M. Gorsuch.
“I have deep reservations about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to this lifetime position and … we have been unable to get all the information necessary regarding this nomination, despite my best efforts,” Donnelly said in a statement. “Only 113 people have ever served on the Supreme Court, and I believe that we must do our level best to protect its sanctity.”
In the full chamber, where Republicans hold a 51-to-49 majority, Kavanaugh can only afford to lose the support of one GOP senator if all Democrats vote against him and Vice President Pence breaks a tie.
At the committee vote neared, senators on both sides of the aisle took turns giving their reasons for supporting or opposing Kavanaugh, many in impassioned terms.
“He does not have the veracity nor temperament for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in our nation,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said of Kavanaugh. “And no such nominee should be confirmed in the face of such serious, credible and unresolved allegations of sexual assault.”
“I’ve never heard a more compelling defense of one’s honor and integrity,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., countered, referring to Kavanaugh’s performance at Thursday’s hearing.
Graham declared that judicial confirmations would now be starkly different going forward, noting the “process before Kavanaugh, and the process after Kavanaugh.”
“I can say about Ms. Ford, I feel sorry for her, and I do believe something happened to her, and I don’t know when and where,” Graham said. “But I don’t believe it was Brett Kavanaugh.”
Shortly after the Judiciary Committee convened Friday, the panel voted down a motion on party lines by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to subpoena Mark Judge, a high school classmate of Kavanaugh. Ford has alleged that Judge witnessed the assault.
The committee then voted, again along party lines, to decide on Kavanaugh’s nomination at 1:30 p.m. The votes prompted outrage from Democrats.
“This is just totally ridiculous. What a railroad job,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.
Several Senate Democrats – including Blumenthal, Hirono, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island – walked out in protest. Some later returned.
In a letter to the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Judge wrote that he did not recall the events described by Ford in her testimony and never saw Kavanaugh act the way she described. Judge said that he does not want to testify and that he avoids public speaking because he struggles with depression and anxiety as a recovering alcoholic and cancer survivor.
Underscoring the acrimony surrounding Friday’s proceedings, a dozen House Democratic women who gathered to watch the Judiciary Committee stood up in the room in protest.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., later told reporters that she thinks Trump “is trying to break the MeToo movement” with his continued support for Kavanaugh.
Meanwhile, shortly after Flake announced his support for Kavanaugh, two women tearfully and loudly confronted the Arizona senator in an elevator, telling him that he was dismissing the pain of sexual assault survivors.
“What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court,” one woman shouted during a live CNN broadcast as Flake was making his way to the Judiciary Committee meeting. “This is horrible. You have children in your family. Think about them.”
Flake listened quietly, then told the women: “Thank you.”