If Senate Democrats counted on the eleventh-hour allegation against Brett Kavanaugh to force wavering Republicans to oppose him, the strategy might have backfired. Susan Collins told WVOM earlier today that a failure of Christine Blasey Ford to testify as her attorney volunteered on Monday constitutes a reason to call off the Monday hearing on the issue entirely. Collins the show hosts that such a failure to appear after going public with her accusation was “not fair to Judge Kavanaugh,” and that demanding an FBI investigation puts the cart before the horse:
A key Republican senator pushed back Wednesday on calls by Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser to allow for an FBI investigation before a hearing next week, the latest indication that Republicans may be closing in on the votes to confirm President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee if Christine Blasey Ford declines to testify.
“I think it’s not fair for Judge Kavanaugh for her not to come forward and testify,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a crucial swing vote, told local radio station WVOM. …
Asked about Ford’s request to allow the FBI to investigate Ford’s allegations first, Collins said that would “it seems to me, that this reverses the normal order of things.”
“Usually the FBI does not pursue allegations against a nominee that occurred when the nominee was a minor,” Collins, who is not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the radio show. “It seems to me what we should be doing is bringing these two individuals before the committee. … If we need additional help from the FBI, then the committee can ask for it.”
Collins says that Ford’s refusal is even more problematic after seeing the efforts that Chuck Grassley has put into attempting to accommodate her. Grassley has offered a public hearing, which Collins prefers, a closed session and staff interviews. “Much to my surprise,” Collins told WVOM’s radio hosts, “she’s turning down all three options.” Collins herself tried asking Ford through social media to reconsider:
I hope that Dr. Ford will reconsider and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. It is my understanding that the Committee has offered to hold either a public or a private session, whichever would make her more comfortable.
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) September 19, 2018
If not, Collins told WVOM, then Kavanaugh has no need to return to the committee and it’s time to take the vote on his confirmation. That isn’t an explicit endorsement, but it’s as close as Collins has come so far in this process. Earlier, she hinted that she was watching this unfold to determine whether Kavanaugh had been truthful with her, with a failure in that regard as “disqualifying.” With Ford’s demands for an FBI intervention and refusal to talk to the committee, Collins seems to be looking elsewhere for evidence of falsehood.
That’s a big problem for those who hoped to derail the confirmation. Collins has been the big prize for Democrats opposed to Kavanaugh all along. If she’s annoyed enough with the accuser’s bait-and-switch play this week on the hearing — which was called specifically to accommodate her, remember — then she will likely cast a vote for Kavanaugh on that basis alone, just to make sure that vague last-minute allegations don’t become a regular feature of confirmation hearings. If Collins votes yes on Kavanaugh, so will all the other Republicans, including Jeff Flake, which is all Kavanaugh needs.
Manu Raju concurs, conditionally:
It's growing increasingly clear that if Christine Blasey Ford doesn't testify, Kavanaugh is going to be confirmed with Republicans falling in line — barring any new developments over the next week https://t.co/qVARglPh0q
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 19, 2018
Any “new developments” will start looking even more suspicious the longer they take to develop, however. The Kavanaugh confirmation has been unfolding for almost three months, he’s been a well-known figure in Washington for two decades, and this allegation has been in the headlines for a week now. Anyone with an axe to grind on Kavanaugh, legitimate or not, has already had plenty of time to come forward.