This week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos

A new sexual misconduct allegation against Brett Kavanaugh is plunging his Supreme Court nomination back into chaos days before a public hearing where he is expected to testify.

The allegation, which Kavanaugh denies, marks the latest setback for his nomination that is on increasingly tenuous footing as Republicans hope to confirm him as Anthony Kennedy’s successor.

It’s a dramatic u-turn from less than two weeks ago when both Republican and Democratic senators viewed Kavanaugh’s confirmation as inevitable and red-state Democrats under heavy pressure to support Trump’s nominee months before the midterm election.

Instead, Kavanaugh is now under fire on multiple fronts. He and Christine Blasey Ford are scheduled to appear before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday over Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and tried to remove her clothing.

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GOP leadership had initially been opposed to holding a public hearing less than two months before a midterm where they are already concerned that female voters are turning against them. But several moderate senators demanded that they hear from Ford before moving Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Kavanaugh’s fragile nomination took two further blows on Sunday night. The New Yorker reported that Senate Democrats are investigating a sexual misconduct allegation dating back to Kavanaugh’s freshman year at Yale.

Deborah Ramirez says Kavanaugh exposed himself in front of her during a gathering at Yale. She told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face, causing her to touch it without her consent.

Kavanaugh has denied both Ford and Ramirez’s allegation.

“This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name--and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building--against these last-minute allegations,” Kavanaugh said on Sunday night.

And Michael Avenatti, a lawyer who was garnered 2020 speculation, said on Twitter that he represents “a woman with credible information” regarding Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, a classmate who Ford alleges witnessed Kavanaugh pinning her to a bed and trying to remove her clothes at a high school party.

Both the White House and top Republicans have stood by Kavanaugh as he’s faced allegations that have caused some to speculate that he would ultimately withdraw his Supreme Court nomination—something Kavanaugh has shown no inclination to do.

“The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh,” said Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the White House.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote McConnell: 'Time to move on' from Trump impeachment talk MORE (R-Ky.) remained confident while speaking to conservatives on Friday, saying they shouldn’t be “rattled” because Kavanaugh will be on the Supreme Court “in the very near future.”

But the new allegations come as Kavanaugh remains short of the simple majority support needed for him to be confirmed by the Senate. Republicans hold a 51-seat majority meaning they can only lose one GOP senator before they need help from Democrats to get Kavanaugh on the bench.

GOP staffers immediately distanced themselves from the New Yorker reporting that some Republican staffers found out about Ramirez’s allegation late last week.

“The committee’s majority staff learned the allegations made by Deborah Ramirez about Judge Kavanaugh from this evening’s New Yorker report. Neither she nor her legal representative have contacted the chairman’s office,” a spokesman for Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The 7 most interesting nuggets from the Mueller report Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy MORE (R-Iowa) said on Sunday.

“The article reports that Democratic staff were aware of  these allegations, but they never informed Republican staff,” the aide added.

Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP senator compares Mueller report's obstruction findings to 'Pinocchio' in 'Shrek 3' Dems sound alarm over top DOJ nominee Restore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison MORE (R-Utah), said he nor Lee’s staff had heard about the allegation. And a spokesman for McConnell told The Washington Post that they were also not aware of the allegation.

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Cain withdraws from Fed consideration Cain says he 'won't run away from criticism' in push for Fed seat MORE (Alaska) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family MORE (Ariz.), who are each undecided on Kavanaugh, didn’t immediately weigh in Sunday night on the new allegations.

Flake is a member of the Judiciary Committee. If he voted against Kavanaugh that would deprive him of the support he would need to be reported out of the Judiciary Committee favorably. Republicans could still bring his nomination to the floor but that would raise new questions about his ability to get confirmed.

Several red and purple state Democrats remain on the fence over Kavanaugh but they are under growing pressure to oppose Trump’s nominee in the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations.

Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCain says he withdrew from Fed consideration because of 'pay cut' On The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed MORE (D-W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyK Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Some in GOP fear Buttigieg run for governor Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty MORE (Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPro-trade groups enlist another ex-Dem lawmaker to push for Trump's NAFTA replacement Pro-trade group targets 4 lawmakers in push for new NAFTA Biden office highlights support from women after second accuser comes forward MORE (N.D.) previously voted for Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee. Donnelly and Heitkamp called for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be slowed down in the wake of Ford’s allegation.

A growing number of their Senate Democratic colleagues are calling on Kavanaugh, who they oppose, to withdraw his nomination.

Democratic Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Long-shot goal of nixing Electoral College picks up steam MORE (Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyAmazon hiring alcohol lobbyist Tlaib rallies in support of Green New Deal at Detroit town hall Ben & Jerry's backs Green New Deal: 'We have to act now' MORE (Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGillibrand pledges not to use 'stolen hacked' materials in 2020 campaign 2020 Dems rebuke Trump on Iran, say they'd put US back in nuclear deal Where 2020 Democratic candidates stand on impeachment MORE (N.Y.) said on Sunday that Kavanaugh should withdraw.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions Five takeaways from Mueller's report Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (D-Calif.) called for any action on Kavanaugh’s nomination, including Thursday’s hearing, to be postponed.

"I also ask that the newest allegations of sexual misconduct be referred to the FBI for investigation, and that you join our request for the White House to direct the FBI to investigate the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford as well as these new claims," Feinstein added in the letter to Grassley.

Minibus

The House is slated to take up an $854 billion spending bill that would fund the Department of Defense — a top priority for the GOP — the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.

If the bill is passes and the president is willing to sign it, it will effectively stave off a shutdown because it also includes a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open through Dec. 7.

Last week Trump — who referred to the bill as “ridiculous” Thursday, calling on Congress to include funding for a wall along the southern border — has not committed to signing the legislation despite GOP lawmakers assertion they don’t believe a shutdown is good politics before midterms.

House Republicans are looking pass the bill before their Sept. 30 deadline and allow members to to go home and campaign for the month of October.

Illegal immigrant voting

The lower chamber is expected to take up a resolution— spearheaded by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyWatchdog: Custodial staff alleged sexual harassment in lawmakers' offices John Legend, Chrissy Teigen lash out at Trump at Dem retreat Republicans call for ex-Trump lawyer Cohen to be referred to DOJ MORE (R-Calif.), who is seeking to be the next Speaker of the House — is slated to come to the floor Wednesday.

The resolution says “allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens.”

It’s expected to pass along party lines.