On Friday morning, hours after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford offered grueling, heartbreaking testimony about being sexually assaulted at age 15 and Brett Kavanaugh, while lying through his teeth, yelled about being good, Republicans barreled forward with a confirmation vote. Along party lines, they voted 11-10, in support of advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination to a full vote on the Senate floor.
Still, the hearing ended in confusion, as Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, at the 11th hour, called on the White House to order an FBI investigation before the vote takes place. Yet no motion was passed, and no formal agreement is in place that any such investigation will happen: Committee chair Chuck Grassley abruptly ended the session and only verbally committed to “Gentlemen and women’s agreement” regarding a “brief” delay on the full vote pending the request. Kavanaugh’s confirmation now lies in the hands of four self-described undecided senators who could threaten to vote “no” unless there is an investigation: Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
At the start of the hearing, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal called for a motion to subpoena Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s high school friend who, according to Ford’s testimony, was in the room when she was assaulted. Judge has not been questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee or the FBI, and has not submitted a “detailed account of what he knows,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot in good conscience vote without hearing from at least Mark Judge,” he said. He also called to hear from “other sexual assault survivors who have come forward with credible, powerful stories.” The motion was defeated along party lines by one vote: the size of the majority Republicans hold over Democrats on the committee. At that point, several Democrats on the committee left the room.
During this process, Republicans have stonewalled witnesses and other accusers, held off an FBI investigation into Ford’s claims, effectively put Ford on trial by hiring a prosecutor to question her, and openly sympathized with Kavanaugh.
Feinstein, the committee’s ranking Democrat, expressed her disappointment in Kavanaugh, who she described as “aggressive and belligerent”:
“This judiciary committee is no longer an independent branch of government,” Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said to the committee. “We are an arm—a very weak arm of the Trump White House. That is something historians will look at and they’ll call it a turning point in the United States Senate.”
Leahy, who was on the committee during the Anita Hill hearings and regrets how Hill was treated, remarked that even then, the Senate Judiciary Committee had interviewed witnesses and called for an FBI investigation. “They don’t want to hear women who have relevant evidence,” he said of Senate Republicans. “Is that really what the Senate Judiciary Committee has lowered itself to?”
The answer is yes. The question ahead is whether the Senate at large will do the same.
Update 9/28, 3:25 pm: Sens. Manchin and Murkowski, two of the undecided senators, support Flake’s call for a limited, one-week independent investigation.
Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s high school friend and a key witness to Ford’s allegations, says that he will agree with an FBI investigation “confidentially.”
Update 9/28, 4:08 pm: Reuters reports that the Senate will vote on a motion to proceed, the first step to taking the confirmation vote to the Senate floor, on Saturday.