By James Fite
After a string of sexual assault allegations, there was some question as to whether the Senate Judiciary Committee would still vote on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. This was initially scheduled to occur in the executive business meeting Friday, September 28 because Senate rules required it for the vote to even be a possibility.
However, it seems Thursday’s hearing removed any doubt from the minds of senators on either side of the aisle as to how they should vote. The Democrats were already united against Kavanaugh, and that certainly didn’t change. But after hearing the judge’s testimony, even the Republicans who were on the fence found new resolve to resist the Democrats’ now-obvious attempts to delay.
The Senate Judiciary Committee convened just after 9:30 Eastern Friday morning, and within minutes, the first attempt by Democrats to stop the vote was shot down. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) made the first motion in the meeting: to subpoena Mark Judge to speak as witness in front of the committee. Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) read Judge’s signed letter, denying any memory of the event, and the committee voted down Blumenthal’s motion.
Every Republican voted against it and every Democrat voted for it – without hesitation. The motion died in seconds, 11-10. Sen. Grassley then made a motion that the Committee vote on Kavanaugh at 1:30. There were objections, of course, but the Republicans all voted in favor, some even while the Democrats cried out for delay. Once again, the Republicans stood united and acted decisively. Eight Democrats voted no; two didn’t bother.
As the time drew nigh, each Senator had their chance to speak on the nomination, but it was clear by 10 am that the decision had already been made. When 1:30 rolled around and 11 Republicans voted for Kavanaugh and 10 Democrats voted against, it was merely a formality. So the Democrats walked out in protest as a last ditch effort to put off the vote.
In addition to every Democrat resisting both Kavanaugh and the aggressive push to confirm him by the Republicans, Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-NY), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) all had something to say to reporters after the walk-out.
Senator Hirono said that the Republicans were willing to break every rule and every convention to get Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, and that once there, he would weaken the court. What rules were broken by both killing Blumenthal’s motion and approving the afternoon vote by majority approval is unclear, but, then, Democrats have never needed facts before to justify their virtue signaling.
Harris even went so far as to say that the Republicans had no integrity and that they were neglecting their duty to let the American people know what is going on before the vote – an interesting position to take, given the Democrats’ demand to pass the Affordable Care Act in order to see what was in it! At least with Kavanaugh, the American people do know. Congress has reviewed more documents for this appointee than any other in the history of the court.
Democrats hemmed up Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and it’s unclear what was said. However, when he came back, he defended the actions of the committee, and said that he would vote in the committee to advance Kavanaugh. He said though, that he did feel that the actual floor vote should be delayed pending a one-week FBI investigation.
And so it is done. All the senators returned from the break and voted exactly as expected, though the FBI investigation was one stipulation. Some of the Democrats are upset that the committee vote wasn’t delayed, but they did it to themselves. Flake only agreed that he would refuse to support the vote before the full Senate until after the FBI investigates. As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pointed out, they’re not the majority of the Senate, and cannot actually stop a vote on the Senate floor now that they’ve officially advanced Kavanaugh out of committee.
Senator Flake seems to have masterfully played the Democrats. Will he actually back up his words and ask the White House for a one-week, limited scope FBI investigation and only support the floor vote after? Will the schedule proceed as initially expected, with a full vote as early as Tuesday, or will they wait as long as a week? We’ll find out, next week.