Until when, though? Three Republicans reacted to the public disclosure of the identity of Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser by suggesting that the Senate Judiciary Committee slow its roll on his confirmation vote, scheduled for Thursday. Judiciary member Jeff Flake, who will retire at the end of the year, said that he wouldn’t be “comfortable” with a vote before getting a chance to hear from Christine Blasey Ford.
Two of his colleagues agreed, putting the confirmation in limbo:
Flake (R-Ariz.) said he needs to hear more about the allegations raised publicly by Christine Blasey Ford on Sunday in a Washington Post article, and said other Republicans share his view. Flake is one of 11 Republicans on the narrowly divided panel and without his support, the committee cannot advance his nomination. However, GOP leaders could try to bring Kavanaugh‘s nomination directly to the Senate floor.
“If they push forward without any attempt with hearing what she’s had to say, I’m not comfortable voting yes,” Flake said. “We need to hear from her. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.”
Asked if the committee vote should be delayed to hear out Ford, Corker replied: “I think that would be best for all involved, including the nominee. If she does want to be heard, she should do so promptly.” Republicans control just 51 seats in the Senate, so the comments of the two retiring senators are highly consequential.
Later Sunday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a moderate who had yet to say how she will vote, echoed the notion that the vote might need to be delayed. “If there is real substance to this, it demands a response,” she told CNN.
John Hinderaker, my good friend at Power Line and on the air, calls Flake a “traitor” for his sudden hesitation:
Despite the feebleness of Ford’s complaint, it is easy to understand why the Democrats are clinging to it like a life raft. But what could possibly prompt Jeff Flake, who ran for office and was elected as a Republican, to join in their attempt to block one of the most superbly qualified jurists ever appointed to the Court? There is only one answer: his insane hatred for President Trump.
Flake is a never-Trumper. Like a number of others for whom I once had considerable respect, Flake has elevated his hatred for our president over every principle of politics and public policy. He would rather subvert his own allegedly conservative principles than allow President Trump to exercise his constitutional powers as president. Words can hardly express how contemptible this is.
Flake is a member of the Judiciary Committee, so Kavanaugh’s appointment cannot proceed to the Senate floor without his vote. (It goes without saying that there is no Democrat on the committee who will follow his or her conscience rather than the Schumer party line.) Flake has resigned from the Senate effective the end of this term, so this could be his parting shot against the party and the principles he claimed to represent. He is not yet a party-switcher like Jim Jeffords–remember him? He was briefly celebrated–but he might as well be. Rarely have I witnessed anything so disgusting in the world of politics.
I’ll have to disagree, at least in part, even while I share in John’s frustration at the situation. Flake isn’t saying he’d vote against Kavanaugh at all; Flake just wants Ford to testify before the Judiciary Committee before the vote, which doesn’t seem all that unreasonable — even if the situation itself is. If Democrats wanted to make Ford’s allegations an issue, they could have raised it during their private sessions with Kavanaugh, during his public hearing, during the closed session, or in the written Q&A. Instead they leaked it out and then got journalists to out Ford without their own fingerprints on it. The way this was handled was despicable.
But when will she be heard? Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley wants her to testify before the Thursday vote, but Dick Durbin says not so fast:
On CNN, Sen. Durbin on Christine Ford allegation against Brett Kavanaugh: She must testify. But not now! This week? 'I think it's too fast.'
— Byron York (@ByronYork) September 17, 2018
That’s utter nonsense, and a clear tell that Democrats are exploiting this for purely political gain. They’ve had the allegation since early July, and the alleged incident took place thirty-five years ago. Nothing about this has been “too fast,” except the besmirchment of Kavanaugh’s public reputation on a so-far-unsubstantiated allegation from his teen years.
Nevertheless, it’s out there, and Republicans have to deal with the reality of the situation. And the political reality is that casting an aye vote without even hearing from the alleged victim is going to play badly for the GOP down the road, especially after the execrable Roy Moore debacle last year. To be clear, there are no factual parallels between Moore’s case and this allegation, but it will be easy for Democrats and their allies to conflate the two. That’s why Durbin wants to drag this out for as long as he can before Ford takes the stand. If they’re confident in Ford’s story, why not get her on the stand as quickly as possible?
Until then, Kellyanne Conway warns fellow Republicans, Ford “should not be insulted and she should not be ignored.” She tells Fox & Friends that plans are already underway to get Flake and his colleagues the testimony they want so the vote can proceed:
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) September 17, 2018
She added that she believes that the “Senate is headed to a reasonable approach” after speaking to a number of lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“Allowing this woman to be heard in sworn testimony, allowing judge Kavanaugh to be heard in sworn testimony about these specific allegations would be added to the very considerable mountain of evidence and considerations that folks will have when they weigh whether or not to vote for judge Kavanaugh to be on the Supreme Court,” Conway said.
“So, let me make very clear. I have spoken with the president. I have spoken with Sen. Graham and others. This woman will be heard,” Conway said.
In other words, the White House doesn’t consider a pause to allow the Judiciary Committee to follow up with Ford an affront. It’s a political necessity. Perhaps that won’t win Flake a Profiles in Courage award, but it wasn’t bad advice. Ford can testify to the allegation, for which she provides no date, place, or witnesses other than the two men she accuses — both of whom deny it. It’s not going to get very far under those circumstances, but then Flake, Corker and Murkowski will have political cover to vote to confirm Kavanaugh after having at least heard Ford out.
Update: Kavanaugh has just issued a new statement denying the incident, and volunteering to return to the committee to say so under oath:
New statement from Judge Kavanaugh in response to allegations now attributed to Prof Christine Blasey Ford: pic.twitter.com/nlqwpJKuZR
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) September 17, 2018