September 28, 2018 at 2:22 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Senate advances Kavanaugh nomination — but there’s a floor vote deal

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Senate floor. (Blade file photo by Micheal Key)

In the aftermath of powerful testimony from Christine Blasey Ford asserting she’s “100 percent” Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as a teenager, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday voted to advance his nomination — although a deal is in the works for an investigation before his final confirmation vote.

The Senate panel approved the nomination on 11-10 party lines. Republican members insisted on moving forward with the nomination despite objections from Democratic members, many of whom called for delay until the FBI could conduct an additional investigation.

The lynchpin that allowed the nomination to move forward was Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) — but there was a condition for his support. Although Flake signaled earlier in the day he’d vote to confirm Kavanaugh, he said he agrees with Democrats an FBI investigation is warranted and would only vote on the floor for the nominee if at least one week is given for its completed.

“I’ll move it out of committee, but I will only be comfortable moving forward on the floor until the FBI has done more investigation than it has done already,” Flake said.

Flake acknowledged he has no power to block floor proceedings on the Kavanaugh nomination, which is the jurisdiction of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). But without Flake’s vote on the floor, the Kavanaugh nomination would almost certainly be in jeopardy.

Other moderates in the Senate on both sides of the aisle — Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) — may also take the opportunity to withhold support for Kavanaugh on the floor without the completion of an investigation. A “no” vote from these senators would doom Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

In a statement from the White House, President Trump said he had directed the FBI to pursue the investigation, although it will be limited in time and scope.

“I’ve ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file,” Trump said. “As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week.”

Kavanaugh said he’d cooperate with the FBI investigation just as he had with previous inquiries in a separate White House statement.

“Throughout this process, I’ve been interviewed by the FBI, I’ve done a number of ‘background’ calls directly with the Senate, and yesterday, I answered questions under oath about every topic the senators and their counsel asked me,” Kavanaugh said. I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate.”

Faiz Shakir, political director for the American Civil Liberties Union, commended Flake in a statement for agreeing to the FBI investigation.

“Flake’s actions today were the direct result of so many courageous Americans who have been willing to raise their voices and demand justice,” Shakir said. “It is fitting and proper that credible allegations be investigated before confirming anyone to a lifetime seat on the highest court in the land. We urge all senators from both sides of the aisle to support the investigation and we urge President Trump to direct the FBI to launch one immediately.”

Sharon McGowan, legal director for the LGBT legal group Lambda Legal, said in a statement the vote advance the Kavanaugh nomination was “highly disturbing and extremely dangerous.”

“Every member of the Senate now needs to decide whether it is worth compromising their own integrity to push forward with this toxic nominee,” McGowan said. “Or they can choose to take a stand with the millions of Americans who know that confirming Brett Kavanaugh will send a devastating message to those who have survived sexual violence and embolden the powerful forces that seek to silence them.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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