Here’s What Happened in Friday’s Confusing Kavanaugh Senate Vote
UPDATE (September 28, 5:52 pm EST): White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed late on Friday afternoon that President Donald Trump has approved an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The probe will delay the vote to confirm Kavanaugh by up to one week. To find out more about what led to the decision, here’s what we wrote earlier:
The committee was meeting to decide whether or not it would push the nomination to the Senate for a vote, but Republican senator Jeff Flake threw a curve ball: He insisted that he would only vote to allow the nomination to go to the Senate if the FBI were allowed to investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh before a vote could take place.
“I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to, but not more than, one week, in order to let the FBI to do an investigation, limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there,” Flake said in the hearing. “I think that we ought to do what we can to make sure that we do all due diligence with a nomination this important.”
If people following the hearing were unsure of what was happening, so were members of the Judiciary Committee. But after a few moments, Flake, along with the other Republicans on the committee, confirmed Kavanaugh’s nomination. But it’s important to note that Flake voted to advance the nomination bill to the floor only if there were the week delay with an organized FBI investigation, meaning he would not vote to confirm the judge without a thorough investigation.
Although Flake has asked for an FBI investigation, it’s up to the Senate majority leader and president to let this happen. Leader Mitch McConnell decides when the vote will take place, and according to reports, this delay still needs to be discussed and decided on.
But, it’s also up to the administration to ask the FBI to do an investigation, and while President Trump says he trusts the Senate, he may decide not to ask for the investigation.
The day started tensely for Flake. As he entered the building just after announcing his intention to vote to confirm Kavanaugh, he was stopped by two women: Ana Maria Archila, a national committee member of the Working Families Party and an executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, and Maria Gallagher, a friend and fellow advocate. The women confronted the senator, asking him to explain why he would feel comfortable with Kavanaugh on the bench while explaining to him their own personal trauma. They asked him to think about what Flake’s confirmation says to his own children. The women told the New York Times that they had never publicly shared their assaults before today, but found it important to share their stories.
“I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me,” Gallagher told Flake, demanding he look her in the eye as she spoke. “I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter.”
Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a friend of Sen. Flake, may have also helped to tip Flake into delaying the vote. During the hearing yesterday, many Dems questioned why the FBI had not investigated the facts in the case considering the severity and SCOTUS lifetime appointment. Just before today’s vote, Flake, Coons, and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar had a closed-door meeting about the hearing.
After the hearing, Coons choked up while speaking to reporters, saying that while he and Flake do not share any political views, they both share deep concern with the process that has taken place during Kavanaugh’s confirmation. “We share a deep concern — for the health of this institution and what it means to the rest of the world and to our country if we are unable to conduct ourselves respectfully.”
Without Flake’s vote, the GOP-held Senate may not be able to push Kavanaugh through. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have not said whether they would vote to confirm Kavanaugh. The Senate needs 50 votes to confirm, and even if Vice President Mike Pence steps in to add a vote, it may not be enough to have the win.
As of 3:45 pm EST Friday, there is still no word on when the vote will happen.
(Photo via Win McNamee/Getty Images)