Kavanaugh vote moves forward, Flake suggests delaying floor vote
(WASHINGON) — Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee amid high partisan tensions and as a key senator suggested delaying the floor vote for a week to allow for an FBI investigation.
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:
2:07 p.m.: Trump weighs in
Responding to Sen. Jeff Flake’s indication that he is uncomfortable moving forward to a floor vote until the FBI does an investigation, President Donald Trump said according to press pool reports, “Whatever they think is necessary.”
1:53 p.m.: The Judiciary Committee sends Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate floor
The committee voted 11-10, along party lines, with the support of every Republican member on the committee.
“This country is being ripped apart here. We’ve got to make sure that we do due diligence,” Flake said. “I think this committee has done a good job but I do think that we can have a short pause and make sure that the FBI can investigate.”
Before the vote this morning, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was pushing ahead with a planned vote to begin full Senate debate on Saturday at noon. It is a procedural vote, ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports.
The leader could ignore his request and move ahead with the vote but if other Republicans stand with Flake, Sen. Mitch McConnell may not have the votes to get Kavanaugh confirmed without him, according to ABC News’ Mary Bruce.
1:46 p.m.: Flake suggests delaying the floor vote
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, suggests delaying the floor vote.
1:32 p.m.: An intense huddle near the hearing room
At one point earlier, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona – after Sen. Chris Coons, D-Deleware, spoke of taking just another week to investigate – walked over to Coons and motioned for him to go toward the anteroom, ABC News’ Trish Turner and Mariam Khan report.
Coons reentered – solemn-faced and is sitting speaking privately with Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the hearing room.
All Democratic members are now in the anteroom.
Flake has yet to speak. He had an opportunity to address the meeting but passed it up.
1:05 p.m.: Committee stands ‘at ease’
Ahead of the roll call at 1:30 p.m. to vote Kavanaugh’s nomination out of committee, Chairman Chuck Grassley announced, “We will stand at ease until the call of the gavel.”
12:54 p.m.: Blumenthal makes one last appeal to delay the vote
A moment of bipartisanship arose in a tense room when Blumenthal asked for more time to make a final appeal to delay the vote, Grassley granted him additional time, as Kennedy offered the Connecticut Democrat the remainder of his time.
In a last-ditch effort to halt the confirmation process, Blumenthal, a former law clerk, asked the committee chairman to “avoid a rush to judgment.”
“We have a responsibility together to do the business of the United States Senate and Mr. Chairman, I know you may not agree with me, but I think in the spirit of working together, a delay in this vote would be appropriate,” Blumenthal said. “I’m here to make a last appeal that we avoid a rush to judgment with great respect for your position.”
Blumenthal should be the last member to speak, ABC News’ Trish Turner reports. The committee will take up the vote at 1:30 p.m. It is unclear what Grassley does until the vote.
12:47 p.m.: Louisiana’s Kennedy: ‘No winners in this room’
Republican Sen. John Kennedy had some forceful for his colleagues, a day after he asked Kavanaugh to “swear to god” that he did not commit the assault against Dr. Ford.
“There were no winners in this room,” he said. “ All I saw were two people, two human beings in pain.”
“This has been an intergalactic freak show,” he added. “As far as I’m concerned Congress hit rock bottom and started to dig.”
He continued: “This is no country for creepy old men. Or young men. Or middle-aged men. But this is no country at all.”
12:29 p.m.: Booker praises Feinstein’s ‘decency’
Booker delivered an impassioned defense of Feinstein, as the ranking member contends with criticism from all sides over how she handled Dr. Ford’s allegation of sexual assault.
“I have such respect for the ranking member,” he said. “I was in the room when we discussed literally hours after I was aware that the letter existed about what her motivations were. It was a private room and forgive me for speaking out of if the ranking member believes I am, but her entire sense of decency and honor had nothing to do with politics. Politics was not mentioned. Her entire concerns were about the dignity and the humanity and the respect for Dr. Ford.”
12:25 p.m.: Tester will vote against Kavanaugh
ABC News’ Mariam Khan dispatches from the Hill:
Another red state Democrat up for re-election, Montana Sen. John Tester, said “I have concerns about Kavanaugh’s record.”
“I have deep concerns about the allegations of sexual assault against Judge Kavanaugh. Unfortunately, Judge Kavanaugh couldn’t find time to discuss these concerns with me in person, so the only information I have is from what he said in his hearings,” Tester said in a statement. “I’ll be voting against him.”
12:19 p.m.: Demonstrator gather outside the Supreme Court
Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court protesting the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh ahead of today’s expected vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee
11:31 a.m.: Partisan back and forth continues
Hoping to propel Kavanaugh’s nomination forward, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said, “Our job now is to vote. Today, we’re going to do that.”
Minutes after, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., panned her Republican counterparts, asserting, “There was a lot of chest beating that went on yesterday. On the other side. And it was pretty effective, I guess, if the goal was to distract the American public from what they had heard in the morning, to distract and deflect from the moving, powerful testimony we heard.”
11:23 a.m.: The New York Times’ editorial board weighs in: ‘Why Brett Kavanaugh Wasn’t Believable’
“Where Christine Blasey Ford was calm and dignified, Brett Kavanaugh was volatile and belligerent,” the editorial begins.
Amid the tensions spilling over inside the halls of Capitol Hill over Kavanaugh’s nomination, the editorial board for the New York Times is certain, as it urges the Senate to vote “no.”
“Her description of the attack, which she said occurred in a suburban Maryland home on a summer night in 1982, was gut-wrenchingly specific,” the newspaper continues.
“On Thursday, he gave misleading answers to questions about seemingly small matters — sharpening doubts about his honesty about far more significant ones. He gave coy answers when pressed about what was clearly a sexual innuendo in his high-school yearbook.”
Ultimately, the editorial board says the American public needs “to know the truth.”
“The Senate and the American people need to know the truth, or as close an approximation as possible, before deciding whether Judge Kavanaugh should get a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court,” the editorial states. “If the committee will not make a more serious effort, the only choice for senators seeking to protect the credibility of the Supreme Court will be to vote no.”
Read the full editorial here.
11:16: Whitehouse calls Kavanaugh’s calendar possible ‘corroborating evidence’
The Rhode Island senator called into question Kavanaugh’s detailed calendar from the summer of 1982, suggesting that the July 1 gathering includes many of the people Ford said were at the gathering on the night she said Kavanaugh assaulted her.
“Here’s Kavanaugh’s calendar,” he began. “Dr. Ford said that Kavanaugh and judge and P.J. And at least one other boy were all at a house. Well, we know Brett Kavanaugh was there because it’s his schedule. And here’s judge, and here’s P.J. Here are all those three named boys and others at a house together just as she said.”
“She said Kavanaugh and judge were drunk. And that she had a beer. Skis is brewskies, beers. They were drinking, just as she said,” he added.
“Now, I will concede that the two girls aren’t mentioned,” he affirmed. “But spot me this. If you had just sexually assaulted one of the two girls, would you add the girls’ names to your calendar? I doubt it. This may, may be powerful corroborating evidence that the assault happened. That it happened that day. And that it happened in that place.”
“But with no FBI investigation, we can’t tell,” he said.
11:08 a.m: More members make their exits, for now
ABC News’ Trish Turner reports from inside the hearing room that senators Flake and Durbin have left. It is unclear which members will return at this point. They will have to return for the vote set for 1:30 p.m.
1:07 a.m: Graham on presumption of innocence: “God help us all”
Graham has left the committee room, but not before delivering a strong rebuke of the allegations against Kavanaugh.
“God help us all,” he said. “If the new standard for the committee is that there’s no presumption of anything, that you have to prove why somebody would accuse you, not just say I didn’t do it and here’s why I didn’t do it, but you have to prove the motives of your accuser. God help us all.”
“This has never been about the truth,” he added. “This has been about delay and destruction and if we reward this – it is the end of good people wanting to be judges.”
Sen. Cornyn added to that chorus of criticisms, repeating comments he made Thursday, “I think this is one of the darkest days for the United States Senate since the Mccarthy hearings that occurred back in the ’50s.”
“Cruelty. Recklessness, indecency. Toward the people we should be treating with respect and dignity.”
10:54 a.m.: Durbin calls out Graham for ‘problem’ remark
Invoking the words Graham said during his Fox News interview, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., challenged the South Carolina Republican, demanding, “Last night on a TV show, one senator said, and I quote, ‘Ms. Ford has got a problem in destroying judge Kavanaugh’s life won’t fix her problem.’
“How could you listen to her honest and direct testimony and draw that conclusion,” he posed. “This undertaking is deeply personal, and there is humanity to reconcile on both sides of the ledger,” he added.
10:38 p.m.: Graham aims to be a ‘voice’ for South Carolina today
Amid high tensions, Sen. Graham offered a few observations on the current state of affairs.
“I would like to tell him that you had a choice to make for the Supreme Court vacancy of Justice Kennedy,” he said. “I think you did a good job, Mr. President. For somebody who supposedly is crazy and there’s chaos everywhere, he did a good job here.”
Despite admonishing Democrats’ tactics, claiming “Y’all want power” the day before, the South Carolina Republican said, “You lost the election. And that does have consequences.”
He continued his ardent defense of Kavanaugh, telling the committee, “I have never heard a more compelling defense of one’s honor and integrity than I did from Brett Kavanaugh.”
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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