PoliticsSupreme Court


More Senators On The Fence After Abuse Allegations Against Kavanaugh

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are encouraging Christine Blasey Ford to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Posted at 12:45 PM, Sep 20, 2018

Republicans have a majority in the Senate, but that doesn't mean Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh will sail through following abuse allegations. It will come down to just a few members of Congress.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake is retiring at the end of the year, but the Judiciary Committee member has been outspoken about pushing the scheduled committee vote this week.

"There was some push to stick to the original schedule and vote on Thursday, and I made it clear that that I wouldn't I wouldn't vote — wouldn't vote yes if we didn't hear [Christine Blasey Ford's] side," Flake said. "So I'm glad she's going to be able to. I may conclude afterwards that he should go on and fill that seat. I may not. It will all depend on the hearing."

The vote is now postponed, and a hearing for Kavanaugh and Ford is scheduled for Monday. The hearing date was announced before Ford responded to the invitation. Flake is aware the optics are working against Republicans on the committee. They're all white and they're all men. He was originally considered a "yes" vote for Kavanaugh, but is not necessarily a rubber stamp anymore. His colleague Sen. Susan Collins has also been on the fence about Kavanaugh all along. Her vote is now very much up in the air.

"I have said from the beginning that these are very serious allegations and she deserves to be heard," she said. "I really hope she doesn't pass up that opportunity."

Republicans are paying close attention to history — specifically how poorly the story of Anita Hill reflected on members of Congress back in 1991. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is inviting Ford to testify either in public or private — whichever setting she is more comfortable in.

"The accuser certainly does deserve a right to be heard, and we're looking forward to hearing what she has to say on Monday," said McConnell. 

Private testimony would likely set up a better situation for Republican men on the committee. Questioning Ford without coming off as unsympathetic to her story will be incredibly difficult. The White House is walking the fine line between supporting the nominee and showing respect to Ford.

President Donald Trump said: "It's a terrible thing this information wasn't given to us months ago when they got it. They waited until everything was done to spring it. It's a process. We feel we want to go through this process, and we want to give everybody a chance to say what they have to say. I feel so badly for him that he's going through this, to be honest with you. I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this."

In a press conference Tuesday, Trump referred to Ford as "the woman" and criticized Democrats. Ford came forward first to her congresswoman on July 6, before Kavanaugh was even nominated. On July 30, she submitted a second letter to her senator and the Judiciary Committee's ranking member, Dianne Feinstein. It was only revealed to the public through The Washington Post a few days ago. Democrats, on the other hand, are demanding witnesses be allowed to testify and that the dates for the hearings be pushed further. Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat with an undeclared vote, says this hearing will matter in his decision.

"If these allegations are true, it would be a disqualifying factor. To do otherwise would send a horrible message to the young people of America," Jones said. 

Red state Democrats like Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill, Joe Donnelly and Joe Manchin are also likely watching these proceedings closely. A vote against Kavanaugh could impact their own elections. Republicans were originally hoping to have Judge Kavanaugh seated on the court by the Oct. 1 term start date. That's unlikely now. They will now look to get a confirmation through before midterm elections Nov. 6.