Jordan Karney & Alexander Bolton
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination on Friday after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) requested a delay in the floor vote on the nomination for a week.
The dramatic events capped an emotional two days of testimony from the nominee and a woman accusing him of sexual assault decades ago when they were high schoolers.
Flake earlier had announced his support for Kavanaugh, but then disappeared from the committee room as lawmakers offered hours of statements on the proceeding.
When he returned to speak, he said he would vote to advance Kavanaugh but called for a one-week delay in a Senate floor vote on his nomination.
“I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI to do an investigation limited in time and scope,” he said.
Flake was reportedly in discussions with Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and other members of the panel.
Flake said he was voting to advance Kavanaugh “with that understanding” and said he has spoken “to a few other members on my side of the aisle who support it as well.”
He said senators should do “what we can to make sure that we all do due diligence with a nomination this important.”
It’s highly uncertain that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will agree to delay the vote, which is on pace for Tuesday.
GOP leaders have argued the longer Kavanaugh’s nomination remains pending in the Senate, the more he is likely to face what they call spurious allegations — such as a recent charge from a woman who claimed gang rapes occurred at parties Kavanaugh attended.
Other Republicans on the committee have argued, however, that Congress does not have the power to instruct the FBI to reopen its background investigation, which is provided as a courtesy to the Judiciary Committee.
Flake said he would make a special request to the White House.
It’s still not clear whether Kavanaugh can get to at least 50 votes on the Senate floor, which would allow Vice President Pence to break a tie and confirm him to the Supreme Court.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) remain undecided.
Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) are undecided on the Democratic side after Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), another Democrat up for reelection in November in a red state, said he would vote “no” on Kavanaugh.
During Friday’s session, Republicans said they were sympathetic to Ford but argued that she failed to provide any compelling corroboration to her claim that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and sexually assaulted her at a party 36 years ago.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the committee, said he found Ford “sincere” but the “existing evidence” refutes her allegation.
“It’s a fundamental aspect of fairness and due process that the accuser have the burden of proving allegations. … [And] there is simply no reason to deny Judge Kavanaugh a seat on the Supreme Court on the basis of evidence presented to us,” he said.