Is Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Nomination Doomed?
Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to sexually assault her when they were both in high school, has accepted a request to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the alleged incident, CNN reports. The details of the hearing still need to be “ironed out,” but if Ford had not decided to testify, the committee would have voted on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Monday.
That brings us to the question: Is Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination doomed? Will Donald Trump and Senate Republicans stand with Kavanaugh, or will they pick a new nominee? Here’s what we know so far.
Republicans have to stand with Kavanaugh or abandon him very quickly
FiveThirtyEight reports that a full investigation of the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh would probably take “at least a few weeks.” But Republicans may not have the time to see how the investigation plays out. If they decide in mid-October to choose a new nominee, they may not have enough time to get that person through the confirmation process before the current Senate session ends in December. They probably need to pick someone new in the next two weeks, FiveThirtyEight estimates.
That’s because Republicans are expected to maintain control of the Senate, but if Democrats gain control, they probably won’t confirm a second Trump nominee to the Supreme Court. Anyone elected in the November midterms won’t start serving immediately, and the current Senate remains in place until the end of the year. “So Republicans, no matter what happens in the midterms, can push a Supreme Court nominee through until the end of the year.”
Only two people can end Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination
The Washington Post reports that a decision to confirm Kavanaugh “portends further damage to the already battered credibility of the Supreme Court.” The Post adds, “The choice — the dilemma — will be whether to block the rise of a widely respected judge based on something he might (or might not) have done as a juvenile, or to promote to the highest court a man accused of trying to rape an underage girl. Either choice presents the acute possibility that a grave injustice will be done.”
There are only two people who can officially call off Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, FiveThirtyEight reports. Donald Trump could withdraw the nomination, or Mitch McConnell could decline to take it to the Senate floor. It’s also possible that if Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley were uncomfortable bringing the nomination to a vote, then McConnell could reconsider it.
How likely is it that any of those scenarios could play out? FiveThirtyEight points out, “Grassley and the White House have already said they are standing behind Kavanaugh. But McConnell was dubious about the judge before Trump picked him, arguing privately that his long paper trail in the George W. Bush White House would prove problematic.”
Jeff Flake and other senators will also play a role
Republicans have an 11-10 majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so one Republican refusing to back Kavanaugh could stall the nomination, at least briefly, FiveThirtyEight reports. Jeff Flake has indicated that he doesn’t feel comfortable backing the nomination. That could impact the way other senators vote, including Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Manchin. Doug Jones could also oppose the nomination.
Plus, Bob Corker has suggested that Republicans should slow down the confirmation process. And Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are two crucial swing votes. As for Democrats, if they can make sure that all 49 of their member s– including in red states — oppose Kavanaugh unless there’s a real investigation of Ford’s charges, then that will increase the pressure on Republicans even more, including on Collins and Murkowski.
Keeping the nomination and going through the investigation is a political risk
The New Yorker notes that even the Trump White House “appears to have given up any hope of silencing Ford or dismissing her claims entirely.” Even Donald Trump said, “I wish the Democrats could have done this a lot sooner. But, with all of that being said, we want to go through the process.” Of course, he also referred to Kavanaugh as “somebody very special” who “never even had a little blemish on his record.”
But holding onto Kavanaugh’s nomination and going through an investigation is a political risk for Republicans. As The New Yorker puts it, “The real question is: Will the White House and Republican leaders actually allow a potentially sensational set of hearings, with all the political risks that would entail, just weeks before the midterm elections in which they are already struggling mightily to attract women’s votes in key suburban districts? Or will they decide to cut their losses and withdraw the Kavanaugh nomination?”
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