Less than 24 hours after hearing testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford about allegations that she was sexually assaulted by Judge Brett Kavanaugh in the 1980s, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Friday to send Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court to the Senate floor.
The committee advanced Kavanaugh’s nomination by a vote of 11-10. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) voted in favor of the nomination, with the caveat that the floor vote be delayed to allow for an FBI investigation, drawing protests from several Republican members. The committee recessed before they could vote on Flake’s motion.
Flake, believed to be a swing vote on the committee, announced early Friday morning that he would vote in favor of the nomination.
He appeared to change his mind midway through the committee meeting during a rare break in the anteroom, hours after being confronted by rape survivors in the Senate halls, who pleaded with him to reconsider. When Flake returned, he echoed the calls of Democrats in demanding that the committee delay the vote to allow the FBI to investigate allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
“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,” Flake said. “I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding.”
Prior to the vote, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) made a motion to subpoena Mark Judge — a friend of Kavanaugh’s who, Ford claims, was in the room while Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her — to testify before the committee. The motion was rejected along party lines, 11-10.
It is unclear whether Senate Republicans can muster the votes needed to confirm Kavanaugh, but according to CNN, they can risk losing one Republican vote to reach 50, at which point Vice President Mike Pence will cast the tie-breaking vote. Flake said he will only be “comfortable” moving the nomination forward on the floor if the FBI conducts an investigation.
Ford delivered an emotional testimony on Thursday, telling senators that her experience has been “seared into my memory and [has] haunted me episodically as an adult.” She described how, at a high school house party, Kavanaugh and Judge allegedly locked her into a room and attempted to rape her. Kavanaugh, she said, pinned her down on the bed and groped her, covering her mouth so she couldn’t scream. Judge looked on, laughing with Kavanaugh.
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter — the uproarious laughter between the two and they’re having fun at my expense,” she told the committee. “I was, you know, underneath one of them while the two laughed. Two friends having a really good time with one another.”
Ford is one of several women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, allegations that Kavanaugh denies. He also gave an emotional testimony before the committee Thursday, but of a different sort, at times visibly angry, sputtering, and sobbing throughout. He lashed out at Democratic senators, interrupting them repeatedly or deflecting their questions. (Arguably the most uncomfortable moment was his clash with Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who explained that her father was an alcoholic and asked Kavanaugh if he ever blacked out from drinking. His response was cutting: “Have you?”)
Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT) and Lindsey Graham (SC) appeared livid throughout Thursday’s hearing, both erupting in angry monologues on behalf of Kavanaugh.
“What you want to do is destroy this man’s life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020,” Graham screamed at the committee. “When you see [Supreme Court Justices Sonia] Sotomayor and [Elena] Kagan, tell them that Lindsey said hello … because I voted for them.”