‘This country is being ripped apart here, and we’ve got to make sure we do due diligence…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) With the support of retiring ‘swing vote’ Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to move the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the full Senate floor, a day after dramatic testimony from Kavanaugh and his sexual assault accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
While the forward motion is progress for the GOP, however, Flake also called on a weeklong suspension of the nomination process to allow the FBI to investigate allegations and potentially interview other people–including Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge, an alleged eyewitness.
“This country is being ripped apart here, and we’ve got to make sure we do due diligence,” Flake said.
Flake indicated that while he was willing to move it out of committee, he would not be comfortable moving forward on a Kavanaugh confirmation barring an investigation. With a razor-thin 51-49 margin dividing the Senate, the GOP could only afford to lose two votes without relying on Democrats to help them. Should even one GOP senator defect, it would be necessary for Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote.
In addition to Flake, GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine are both considered critical swing votes. Some Democrats, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, have given indications of potential support. But Manchin likely would not risk positioning himself as the deciding vote by breaking Democratic ranks with a tight, battleground-state race looming in the Nov. 6 midterm election. He endorsed Flake’s request in a tweet on Friday:
I applaud Senator Flake’s decision to rise above the partisan circus on display during this entire process. It is what is right and fair for Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, and the American people. pic.twitter.com/VYoyYN6XQP
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) September 28, 2018
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, thanked Flake for his efforts to move forward Kavanaugh’s recommendation, while reiterating that an FBI investigation would be redundant to what the Judiciary Committee already had completed.
“Some of us think [Kavanaugh’s vetting] has been concluded and supplemented by this investigation. Others disagree with that,” he said. But Flake “certainly maintains his right to cast his vote yea or nay… and maintains significant leverage.”
Democrats on the committee were more ebullient in their praise for Flake after having repeatedly grilled Kavanaugh himself to ask the White House for an FBI investigation during the previous day’s testimony.
“It is simply Sen. Flake working with all of us to say, for the good of the Senate and the good of the Court, the American people deserve to have these facts followed up on,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Flake said he would press for an investigation that was “short and limited in scope to the current allegations that have been made,” and that it may not take an entire week.
However, those who have come to regard the Democrats’ demand as a stalling tactic to delay the vote through the midterm election (when they hope to overtake the majority in the Senate) are likely to remain wary of new surprises and new allegations that might further forestall the confirmation.
Other questions may arise over the FBI’s credibility following searing accusations of bias at the agency’s highest levels.
Following the precedent of the 1991 Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill investigation, the FBI would report directly to the White House, which, after receiving the form 302 interview reports, would make the official determination as to whether charges were substantiated.
But with the culture of leaking classified information–and the active ‘resistance’ that purports to be operating clandestinely within the senior levels of the executive branch–Trump’s authority is likely to be undermined.