Moments after a key Republican swing senator announced his support for the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Friday morning to delay its vote until 1:30 p.m. ET.
The Friday morning announcement by Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that he would vote in favor of Kavanaugh guaranteed that the committee would vote to send the nomination to the full Senate, where its prospects still remain uncertain. Several Republican senators have not yet said how they plan to vote.
Before the timing of the vote was set, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., made another motion that the committee subpoena Mark Judge, who Christine Blasey Ford had identified as a witness to Kavanaugh’s alleged assault. The motion was defeated on an 11-to-10 party-line vote.
When the committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, then immediately called for a 1:30 vote, allowing no debate, Democrats were visibly frustrated, angry and upset. When Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., were called to vote, they sat in their chairs in silence.
“They’re not answering because this is so unfair,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
“In the 25 years on this committee, I have never seen a nominee for any position behave in that matter. Judge Kavanaugh used as much political rhetoric as my Republican colleagues,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said. “She was poised, she was credible and she should believed.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., excoriated the committee as derelict in its duty, instead acting as an “arm” of President Donald Trump’s White House.
“This Judiciary Committee is no longer an independent branch of government,” he said. “We are an arm, and a very weak arm, of the Trump White House. Every semblance of independence has disappeared.”
“That is something historians will look at, and they’ll call it a turning point in the United States Senate,” he added.
Leahy said this committee was “doing even worse” than it had in 1991 when it heard allegations from Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., came next.
“I know I am a single white male from South Carolina and I’ve been told shut up, but I will not shut up,” said Graham, who put his fury on display during the hearing less than 24 hours earlier, said.
He attacked Democrats for drawing a comparison between the current scenario and the GOP’s blockade of President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, saying he doesn’t think he did anything unfair by holding the seat open until after the 2016 election.
Graham suggested his party has the right to nominate, and confirm, a nominee of their choosing.
“Elections do matter,” he said. He later signaled he wanted to be the committee’s next chairman, and that if he were in that position, he would hold a grudge against Democrats.
“If I am chairman, next year, if we keep the majority and Sen. Grassley moves over,” he said. “I’m going to remember this.”
“If you try to destroy somebody you will not get away with it,” Graham said.
As Graham spoke, Democrats at times mumbled to themselves and shook their heads, clearly frustrated with the senator’s partisan tone. Klobuchar seemed in disbelief while listening to Graham.
Moments later, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the ongoing confirmation process “one of the darkest days for the United State Senate” since “the McCarthy hearings back in the 1950s.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., meanwhile, issued a dire warning about the future of the Supreme Court, should Kavanaugh be confirmed.
“The court is flying all the warning flags of a captured agency, dancing to special interest tunes and rampaging through precedent and principle to get there,” he said. “This will be a disaster for the court and I believe Kavanaugh will contribute to that disaster. His partisan screed yesterday was telling.”
Whitehouse also revisited details from Kavanaugh’s 1982 calendar, explaining that an entry from July 1 of that year indicated that he was with the people that Ford had claimed were present at the party where she says she was assaulted.
Kavanaugh’s lawyers had submitted his calendars from the summer of 1982 as part of their defense against Ford’s claim.
As Kavanaugh testified Thursday, GOP senators on the panel came to his defense, addressing him directly instead of communicating through Rachel Mitchell, the sex crimes prosecutor they had hired to ask questions on their behalf for the hearing.
Kavanaugh, 53, a federal circuit court judge who was nominated by Trump in July, sharply denied Ford’s allegation, blasted lawmakers for their handling of the process and remained adamant about not withdrawing.
“I never sexually assaulted anyone. Not in high school. Not in college. Not ever,” he said. “You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit. Never.”
“This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination,” he said. “I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.”
Kavanaugh said he couldn’t recall ever knowing Ford when they were in high school, though he admitted it was possible they had met at some point. Kavanaugh also presented a calendar he had from 1982, the year of the alleged assault, and pointed to his summer activities and how they should exonerate him.
Earlier in the hearing, Ford testified publicly for the first time about the alleged attack, describing how she was pushed into a bedroom, with the door locked behind her by Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, and how Kavanaugh pinned her down on the bed and groped her.
“I believed he was going to rape me,” Ford went on. “It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, and at times telling him to stop.”
If the Judiciary Committee reports the nomination out favorably, the Senate expected to hold two procedural votes before the final vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The first procedural vote is expected Saturday afternoon, and the second on Monday. At the end of the debate, the Senate is expected to hold a final confirmation vote on Tuesday. All votes require a simple majority.
Rebecca Shabad reported from Washington, and Adam Edelman from New York.