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.

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 McConnellGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' 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 GrassleyDems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review Clinton's security clearance withdrawn at her request 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 LeeSenators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Bernie Sanders: US should pull out of war in Yemen if Saudis killed journalist Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line 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 CollinsGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked 'Suspicious letter' mailed to Maine home of Susan Collins MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiEx-Florida lawmaker leaves Republican Party Murkowski not worried about a Palin challenge Flake on Kavanaugh confirmation: To see GOP 'spiking the ball in the end zone' doesn't seem right MORE (Alaska) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeIMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Election Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach 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) ManchinTrump makes new overtures to Democrats Gillibrand backs Manchin, Bredesen despite their support of Kavanaugh Senate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees MORE (D-W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyElection Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach Dems outraising Republicans in final stretch of midterms Trump Jr. to stump in Indiana for Pence’s brother and governor hopeful MORE (Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampElection Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse, sexual assault victims Cinton knocks Trump while rallying Dems: 'The president degrades the rule of law' 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 MerkleyPoll: Dem incumbent holds 5-point lead in Oregon governor's race Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees EPA chief calls racist Facebook post he liked ‘absolutely offensive’ MORE (Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports EPA chief calls racist Facebook post he liked ‘absolutely offensive’ Senate sends bill regulating airline seat sizes to Trump MORE (Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandAffordable housing set for spotlight of next presidential campaign Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case Pentagon watchdog knocks top admiral for handling of sexual harassment case MORE (N.Y.) said on Sunday that Kavanaugh should withdraw.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Pollsters: White college-educated women to decide if Dems capture House Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review 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 McCarthyDemocrats in swing districts advised to avoid talking about immigration The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump travels to hurricane-ravaged Florida, Georgia McCarthy brother-in-law under scrutiny for earning federal contracts based on Native American identity claim 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.