Politics

Judiciary Committee Defies ABA, Sends Kavanaugh Nomination to Senate Floor

Supreme Court pick takes giant step toward succeeding the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy

Image Credit: Pool / Getty Images

Eleven Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday defied the American Bar Association (ABA), voting to send Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court for final debate and decision by the full Senate.

The committee’s 11-10 party line vote was set up just before its meeting, when Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who had previously been considered a toss-up, announced he would support moving the nomination forward in the Senate.

Flake further complicated the proceedings in the minutes before the committee’s vote by bowing to intense pressure from Democrats to allow an FBI investigation of allegations that Kavanaugh sexually molested Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party in the early 1980s, allegations the nominee has sharply denied.

Flake came up with a compromise under which he voted for forwarding the nomination but announcing that he did so with the understanding that committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) would encourage Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to delay the final vote for a week to allow the FBI investigation.

McConnell has not commented on Flake’s action, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pointed out that the majority leader is not obligated to heed the Arizona Republican’s encouragement.

All 10 Democrats on the panel opposed the motion to forward the nomination.

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The vote explicitly defied the ABA, which, despite previously giving Kavanaugh its highest rating, announced Friday its support for Democrats’ demand that the nomination be delayed until the FBI can review allegations by Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh sexually molested her 36 years ago during a high school party.

The legal group’s highly valued rating wasn’t changed, however, because it was reached by its Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, as White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah tweeted:

During debate on moving forward, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a former chairman of the judiciary panel, said, “It’s time to stop the circus.” At the same time, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Mazie Hirono (D- Hawaii) left the hearing room to hold an impromptu news conference to protest the proceedings.

Related: Grassley Chastises Dems for Ignoring Committee’s Kavanaugh Probe

Now that the committee has approved the nomination’s move to the full Senate, it will likely be followed Saturday and Monday with motions to begin and close floor debate. A final vote could come as soon as Tuesday, which would allow Kavanaugh to be sworn in to join the Supreme Court for its October term.

Kavanaugh’s ascension to the high court would give it a solid conservative majority for the first time in generations, the key reason Democrats have pulled out all the stops in their campaign to defeat his nomination.

They fear the court with Kavanaugh will limit or reject the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established abortion rights nationwide. As a result, their opposition has taken to new lows the tactics first seen in the 1987 defeat of Judge Robert Bork and the 1991 “high-tech lynching” of Justice Clarence Thomas, which are viewed today by many judicial observers as unethical.

“It’s time to stop the circus.”

Kavanaugh was being voted on alongside nine other federal judicial nominees. Grassley motioned to open the committee up for a vote after giving Democrats the chance to put forth motions. Much of the focus, as the debate unfolded for his nomination, was on the sexual assault allegations.

“Yesterday’s hearing was not a trial, but trials have rules based on common-sense notions of fairness and due process,” Grassley said. “Not the other way around. A person made allegations against him in a public way, and his reputation and likelihood were at stake. It was only fair that his accuser had the burden of proof, and in my opinion this wasn’t met.”

Related: Lindsey Graham Blasts Dems: ‘What You Want to Do Is Destroy This Guy’

Grassley added that both Ford and Kavanaugh sounded credible and sincere, but it came down to evidence. Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she doesn’t know whether the nominee was telling the truth but criticized the committee in their approach to the controversy and their rush to vote on the nominee.

“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have gone so far as to say this whole situation was nothing more than a nefarious attempt at political theater,” Feinstein said. “I understand why they did that. However, I was shocked to see Judge Kavanaugh take the same tone and strategy.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) motioned earlier in the meeting to subpoena Mark Judge, who was named as being a witness in the sexual assault allegations. His lawyer submitted a written statement, in which he denied knowledge of the alleged incident. He also said that the committee should hear from the other alleged sexual misconduct victims. But the motion failed.

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