Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) may be retiring, but he made himself the center of attention on Friday by agreeing with Democrat demands for a one-week delay in the Senate’s vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh — while the FBI conducts its seventh investigation in nearly two decades of the embattled Supreme Court nominee.
Flake joined the other 10 Republicans on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in voting to forward the nomination to the full Senate for a final vote, but said he was doing so on the understanding that Republican leaders would allow the FBI delay.
All 10 Democrats on the committee opposed the motion, but they were jubilant with Flake’s action. Republicans were more cautious in their reactions.
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“The Senate Judiciary Committee will request that the administration instruct the FBI to conduct a supplemental FBI background investigation with respect to the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” the committee said in a statement after the vote.
“The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today,” the panel said in its statement.
“I support the decision for an investigation limited in length and scope as described today,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said in a statement. “This will address the concerns raised by Sen. Flake and others while also being fair to the Kavanaugh family.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that party leaders will allow up to a week for a background investigation of Kavanaugh before the final vote, according to the Associated Press.
“Sen. Coons and Sen. Flake have been working together on this for quite a while, and a number of us have been urging them along,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said afterward.
“But this was kind of a surprise to all of us. Sen. Flake has expressed, including in his speech yesterday, his concern about the divisions in this country, which is being exasperated by what’s happening here,” she said.
Kavanaugh has faced a heated confirmation process since President Donald Trump nominated him to the high court on July 9. He has had his record scrutinized and his character attacked, all while political fights over his nomination intensify. California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford’s accusing him of sexual assault upended that already contentious process.
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“I support the bipartisan call for the White House to reopen the FBI background check investigation of Judge Kavanaugh,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said in a tweet. “There should be no vote on this lifetime nomination for our highest court until the Senate has all the facts about serious and credible allegations made by women.”
Ford claims that the nominee sexually assaulted her while he was a high school student at Georgetown Preparatory School during the 1980s. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Senate Democrats have called for the process to be delayed until the FBI has a chance to investigate.
“This situation merited an FBI investigation,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said afterward. “[Flake] made a stand calling for it with a controlled amount of time and a controlled number of allegations. I think it was the right thing to do, and I applaud him for showing this type of leadership.”
“It took courage to take a stand and call for a one-week FBI investigation to get to the bottom of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in a statement.
“This has been a partisan and divisive process. The American people have been pulled apart by this entire spectacle, and we need to take time to address these claims independently, so that our country can have confidence in the outcome of this vote,” Manchin said.
“A man who uses the same hostile and aggressive tactics as Donald Trump when faced with credible allegations of sexual assault does not deserve a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a tweet following the judiciary panel’s action.