Washington, DC – The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination out of committee and to the floor of the U.S. Senate for a confirmation vote on Friday afternoon, but with caveats.
The vote was supposed to have been made at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 28, but a number of last minute side meetings in the anteroom between Democrats and Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) delayed it until just a few minutes before 2 p.m.
When the committee was finally seated, Committee Chair Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) gave Flake a moment to speak to his assembled colleagues.
Flake was the majority member who requested Christine Blasey Ford be invited to testify before the Judiciary Committee after her allegations became public, and he told the assembled lawmakers that he wanted to make sure they had done their due diligence.
“I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to, but not longer than, one week to allow the FBI to do an investigation,” Flake told the committee. “I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding.”
Flake then told them he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, and Grassley began to move the vote forward.
But then the ranking minority member of the committee, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California), interrupted, seemingly at odds with what exactly she and other Democrats had agreed to when they negotiated with Flake right before the vote.
Despite a kerfuffle from the Democratic members of the committee, Grassley pressed ahead and called the vote. Kavanaugh’s nomination was sent to the U.S. Senate floor for a vote by 11 to 10, with everyone voting along party lines.
“The nominee will be reported to the floor,” Grassley announced.
Once the vote was completed, there was a brief discussion about what had just happened, with a couple Democrats implying that they hadn’t understood exactly what had been negotiated with Flake.
Feinstein said she would vote for Flake’s amendment calling for further investigation, and Grassley informed her there was no amendment up for discussion.
“All I have said to Senator Flake is that I would advocate for the position that he took, but I don’t control that,” Grassley clarified.
After the vote, Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) said that they wanted to work on a bipartisan basis to “diligently pursue” an FBI investigation about allegations made by Ford and others.
He and Flake are considered to be good friends, and the pre-vote negotiations in the anteroom were considered to be spearheaded by them.
Coons told reporters after the meeting ended that he felt the FBI would be able to complete the investigation reasonably within a week.
However, one of the more vocal GOP members of the committee reminded everyone of the reality of the rules.
“It doesn’t matter what we say here – it will be up to Mr. Schumer and Mr. McConnell,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) reminded the committee, referring to the Senate majority and minority leaders.
Flake appeared to rush to reassure the Democrats with whom he’d been negotiating.
“I think we can have a short pause and make sure the FBI can investigate,” he told his fellow lawmakers. “Short and limited in scope to allegations that have already been made.”
Feinstein and other Democrats wanted to continue the discussion but the chair put the kibosh on that plan, and adjourned the meeting, referencing the two-hour rule, which restricts most committee meetings to two hours when the full Senate is in session.
Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump told reporters he was pleased with the process.
President Trump said that he thought Kavanaugh’s testimony had been incredible. He also called Ford a “credible witness.”