Kavanaugh nomination slated for a vote Friday; Democrats briefly walk out

Posted on: September 28th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court is poised for a vote Friday morning by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Republican-led committee began a crucial meeting to debate and then to vote on whether to advance the nomination to the full Senate — a day after nearly nine hours of emotional and at times wrenching testimony from the judge and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, on her allegation of sexual assault when they were teens.

Here’s how the day is unfolding:

10:23 am: Leahy: ‘It feels like Alice in Wonderland around here.’

“It’s almost surreal,” Leahy said, admonishing the committee amid the meeting on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. “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.”

9:53 am: Democrats briefly walk out

Democratic senators Kamala Harris of California, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Patrick Leahy of Vermont walked out of the meeting in protest.

Staff for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey left the room, signaling he might walk out too. Eventually, two of the Democratic members that walked out, Leahy and Whitehouse, returned to the Dirksen room.

Ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein seemed to sum up her colleagues’ frustration as she underscored the severity of their task and actions of Republicans on the committee.

“I hoped we would do better and show women that our country, our committee, has in fact changed,” the ranking member said. “This isn’t a political battle for power, as some have said. This is a serious undertaking with serious allegations. While the Republican strategy is no longer attack the victim, it is ignore the victim. The entire country is watching now how we handle these serious allegations.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s chairman, responded to the mostly absent minority during the meeting, asserting, “I regret that my Democratic colleagues again failed to timely bring this relevant information to his attention.”

With the committee closely split between 11 GOP members and 10 Democrats, if one Republican votes “no” or “present” on the recommendation, the nomination won’t have the endorsement of the full committee.

9:20 am: Kavanaugh could still get confirmed, here’s why

But Kavanaugh could still get a full Senate confirmation by being referred out of the committee without a recommendation, as happened with now-Justice Clarence Thomas.

It’s not clear at this point if all Republicans on the panel will vote to recommend the nomination. But it seems more certain after GOP Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake announced minutes before the meeting is set to begin that he will vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

“After hearing more than 30 hours of testimony from Judge Kavanaugh earlier this month, I was prepared to support his nomination based on his view of the law and his record as a judge,” he said in a statement. “In fact, I commented at the time that had he been nominated in another era, he would have likely received 90+ votes.”

One Republican committee member, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he’s “optimistic” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the votes, but he did not express certainty.

Another, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., broke from the GOP’s measured strategy to have prosecutor Rachel Mitchell ask the questions for them, and launched into a tense and indignant five minutes during the hearing on Thursday.

“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” Graham said. “I hope that the American people will see through this charade.”

After the hearing, Graham told Fox News’ Sean Hannity: “I am now more convinced than ever that he didn’t do it, that he’s the right guy to be on the court, and that Ms. Ford has got a problem and destroying Judge Kavanaugh’s life won’t fix her problem.”

Shortly after Thursday’s hearing ended, several Senate moderates — the key votes in the Kavanaugh nomination — met privately in the Capitol.

5 key takeaways from the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing

In the huddle was one Republican member of the Judiciary Committee — Flake along with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Sources told ABC News that all four members left the conversation still undecided.

All eyes are now on those other key swing votes, including Manchin, who remained undecided as of Friday morning.

Sen. McConnell, when asked if he had the votes to put Kavanaugh on the high court, declined to answer, instead telling reporters on Capitol Hill, “You guys don’t need to follow me. That’s all I’m going to say.”

Friday’s vote will come hours after the American Bar Association, which had earlier given Kavanaugh its highest rating of “well-qualified” for the Supreme Court, sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee calling for the FBI to reopen the background check.

“The American Bar Association urges the United States Senate Judiciary Committee (and, as appropriate, the full Senate) to conduct a confirmation vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States only after an appropriate background check into the allegations made by Professor Ford and others is completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” ABA president Robert Carlson wrote.

The White House is hopeful that Republicans will deliver for the president.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” Friday, “I certainly hope so, and I certainly think so.”

Ford, a California university professor, told a captivated dais of lawmakers at Thursday’s hearing that she is “100 percent” certain her assailant was Kavanaugh.

Asked what is her strongest memory of the incident, she said, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter.”

“The uproarious laughter between the two. And their having fun at my expense … They were laughing with each other,” she said.

Mere hours later, Kavanaugh, sitting in the same seat before the Judiciary Committee, categorically denied the allegation and angrily accused Democrats of smearing his “good name.”

“This is a circus,” he said. “This grotesque, character assassination will dissuade confident and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country, and as we all know in the political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around,” Kavanaugh said.

President Donald Trump urged Republicans to head to a vote minutes after the hearing wrapped.

Barring any last-minute developments, Kavanaugh is expected to receive a final Senate floor vote by Tuesday.

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