Kavanaugh passes procedural vote, confirmation awaits
by Harvest Prude
Posted 9/28/18, 07:06 pm
UPDATE: Republicans pushed Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination past a procedural hurdle Friday, but the vote on his confirmation remains delayed until the FBI investigates the allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday that all 51 Republican senators supported a motion to proceed with Kavanaugh’s nomination after a tumultuous day on Capitol Hill. The motion was approved by voice late in the day.
UPDATE (5:38 p.m.): President Donald Trump announced late Friday afternoon that he has ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation into the background of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week,” the president said in a statement.
OUR EARLIER REPORT (4:11 p.m.): WASHINGTON—The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the next step of the confirmation process on Friday but not without raising the likelihood of an FBI investigation before the entire Senate votes on approval.
The committee vote, originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m., suffered a 15-minute delay as nearly all of the senators deserted their seats to congregate in a back room. After returning from negotiations, key swing vote Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., announced he would vote yes, but on the condition that the full Senate floor vote would be delayed for a weeklong FBI investigation into the sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 GOP leader, confirmed to reporters that the Senate would allow up to a week for such an investigation before voting.
Flake, who had indicated ahead of Friday’s proceedings he would vote yes, showed signs of reconsidering after he declined to give a statement and later went to the back room with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
The Senate Judiciary Committee eventually voted 11-10 along party lines to recommend Kavanaugh to the full Senate.
In a news conference after the vote, Coons told reporters Flake’s demand for an investigation resulted from “a number of conversations.” He called the move important not only to look into the accusations, but also “to show the American people … we are able to work with each other.”
Partisan wrangling marked the majority of Friday’s committee meeting. Soon after the meeting begin around 9:30 a.m., the committee voted along party lines to set a time for the vote, leading Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut to walk out of the room in protest. At a news conference outside the committee meeting room they denied they had coordinated the move.
Throughout the day, senators continued to lodge familiar concerns along partisan lines: Republicans decried the timing of the sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh, while Democrats continued to ask for an FBI investigation or testimony from alleged witness Mark Judge, who reportedly has said he would cooperate with an investigation, provided it was “confidential.” Democrats also brought new ammunition to the proceedings: The American Bar Association sent a letter to the committee urging it not to vote until the FBI conducted “an appropriate background check into allegations,” saying it made the request out of “respect for the law and due process.”
The ultimate authority to reopen an FBI investigation rests with President Donald Trump. When questioned by reporters, the president said he would rely on the Senate: “That will be a decision they are going to make and I suspect they will be making some decision soon.”
The call for an FBI investigation threw a grenade into Republican leadership plans to move toward a Senate floor vote. Undecided Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told reporters she backed Flake’s request, increasing the odds Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lacks the votes needed to secure Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Friday morning, other undecided senators announced their stances: Red state Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Doug Jones of Alabama, and Bill Nelson of Florida announced their opposition. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., announced he would support Kavanaugh.
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Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.