Republican leaders’ plan to vote next week on President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh fell apart Friday. Here’s what happened.
After Thursday’s extraordinary hearing into Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault, the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee planned a morning vote to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor.
Sen. Jeff Flake, the only undecided senator on the panel, released a statement early Friday saying he would support Kavanaugh.
As Flake headed to the committee hearing room, he was approached by two upset women who said they were victims of sexual assault and were deeply upset by his vote. Flake appeared visibly shaken by the encounter.
When the hearing began at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, Republicans moved to cut off debate and set a 1:30 p.m. vote by the committee. Some angry Democrats stormed off in protest, saying they wanted more time to debate.
As senators made their statements in the committee before the 1:30 vote, Flake at one point rose and left the hearing room with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).
Soon attention shifted away from the speaking senators as Democratic members of the committee began huddling, whispering and meeting. Republicans looked uncomfortable.
Well past 1:30 p.m., Democrats and Flake returned. Flake called for a one-week delay in the vote by the full Senate, which was set to begin Saturday. But he did not object to voting in the committee in favor of Kavanaugh.
The committee, by a party-line vote of 11 to 10, quickly decided in favor of advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor. Flake voted for Kavanaugh.
After the meeting ended, another key undecided Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), joined in calling for a one-week delay to allow for an FBI investigation.
With two Republicans calling for a delay, GOP leaders would not have enough votes to confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination if they brought it to the floor.
GOP leaders huddled to plan their next move. It remained unclear whether they would proceed with a preliminary vote Saturday and a final vote Tuesday. But they did not appear to have the votes.
Coming next week
Reversing its previous position, the Senate Judiciary Committee formally called for the White House to order the FBI to look into “current credible” sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh and complete the work within one week.
Trump later ordered the FBI to conduct the investigation.