Sen. Jeff Flake – Photo: Facebook.
On Friday, Republicans on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the full Senate for consideration, all but ensuring his eventual confirmation.
The decision came after last-minute drama from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who delayed the vote to request a one-week FBI investigation into accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
Despite any formal agreement from Republican leaders, Flake ultimately opted to advance the nomination to the Senate floor.
LGBTQ groups slammed Republicans for advancing the nomination, and expressed skepticism over whether Flake’s demands would be met by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“The decision by the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to advance by a party-line vote the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Senate for a full floor vote is highly disturbing and extremely dangerous,” Sharon McGowan, the chief strategy officer and legal director of Lambda Legal, said in a statement.
“Senate Majority Leader McConnell has made it clear that he intends to ‘plow this nomination through.’ Based on Mitch McConnell’s shameless history of playing politics with the Supreme Court, there is no reason to believe that he will honor Senator Flake’s legitimate request for a thorough FBI investigation into the claims of the brave women who have come forward before pushing ahead with a vote without sustained pressure,” McGowan continued.
She added that Kavanaugh had demonstrated he “clearly cannot be trusted to serve as a fair-minded jurist — much less as a Supreme Court Justice.” calling his testimony “misleading, evasive and, at times, demonstrably false.”
“His temperament on display yesterday is wholly antithetical to what the American people are entitled to expect from our federal judges — fairness, impartiality, and respect for all who come before them,” McGowan said. “Every member of the Senate now needs to decide whether it is worth compromising their own integrity to push forward with this toxic nominee. Or they can choose to take a stand with the millions of Americans who know that confirming Brett Kavanaugh will send a devastating message to those who have survived sexual violence and embolden the powerful forces that seek to silence them. We call on all Senators of conscience to oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.”
Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, urged LGBTQ people and allies to flood the phone lines of senators to demand a “no” vote on Kavanaugh.
“This isn’t over,” he tweeted. “Keep lighting up their phones. Text ‘SAVE SCOTUS’ to 30644 and urge your senators to vote NO on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. The stakes could not be higher.”
The question remains whether Republican leadership, particularly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will allow a week’s delay, or will move to confirm Kavanaugh immediately.
There was no binding resolution or motion approved by the committee, so the only reason McConnell would delay would be uncertainty as to whether he has the votes to confirm Kavanaugh, or wants to give moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats who are key votes some cover.
However, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) — both considered swing votes — indicated they would support Flake’s call for a delay. Murkowski’s support alone removes Senate Republicans’ majority should they try to force a vote of Kavanaugh without any investigation.
Since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a Palo Alto University professor, came forward to claim that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in an attempted rape at a house party in 1982, when the two were in high school, Democrats have insisted that the White House and Republican leaders call for an FBI investigation.
They reiterated this point several times during a Thursday hearing where the committee heard Ford and Kavanaugh’s dueling accounts of whether any such assault occurred.
After Ford’s allegation was made public, at least two other women have come forward to claim that they were assaulted by Kavanaugh or have knowledge of assaults he committed against other women.
As of now, most Democratic senators have said they intend to vote against Kavanaugh, including vulnerable “red-state” senators who are up for re-election this year, such as Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Jon Tester (Mt.), while most Republicans have announced their support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The swing votes appear to be Flake, Murkowski, Manchin, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).
Flake believes allowing the FBI to investigate will allay the concerns of that small group and allow them to vote on the judge’s nomination with a clear conscience.