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 McConnellCornyn opens door to including criminal justice bill in government funding measure The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe Judd Gregg: The government goes geriatric 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 GrassleyBrady releases revised version of year-end tax package Overnight Health Care: House set to vote on bill targeting drug companies for overcharging Medicaid | Dems press Trump officials on pre-existing conditions | Tobacco giant invests .8B in Canadian marijuana grower House set to vote on bill cracking down on drug companies overcharging Medicaid 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 LeeCorker to introduce resolution holding Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi's death This week: Trump, Dems set to meet amid funding fight Congress digs in for prolonged Saudi battle 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 CollinsSenators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House Judd Gregg: The last woman standing MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate advances Trump energy pick after Manchin flips The Senate must reject Bernard McNamee’s nomination for FERC Overnight Defense: Congress pauses to mourn George H.W. Bush | Haspel to brief senators on Khashoggi killing | Soldier is fourth to die from Afghan IED blast MORE (Alaska) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake: Republican Party ‘is a frog slowly boiling in water’ Tim Scott: Stop giving court picks with 'questionable track records on race' a Senate vote Flake stands firm on sending a ‘message to the White House’ on Mueller 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) ManchinSchumer to Trump: Future infrastructure bill must combat climate change Overnight Energy: Senate confirms controversial energy pick | EPA plans rollback of Obama coal emissions rule | GOP donor gave Pruitt K for legal defense Senate confirms Trump’s controversial energy pick MORE (D-W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySchumer gets ready to go on the offensive Schumer walking tightrope with committee assignments 10 things we learned from the midterms MORE (Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSchumer walking tightrope with committee assignments Banking panel showcases 2020 Dems Trump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator 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 Merkley How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit Dem senator accuses Trump of aiding 'cover up' over Khashoggi Criminal justice reform splits 2020 Democrats MORE (Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyFocus on Yemen, not the Saudi crown prince Mattis: Investigation into killing of Khashoggi is ongoing Senators introduce resolution saying Saudi crown prince 'complicit' in Khashoggi slaying MORE (Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandWarren has contacted 100 people in early 2020 primary states: report O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold NRA's Loesch: Gillibrand’s 'future Is female’ tweet 'is pretty sexist' MORE (N.Y.) said on Sunday that Kavanaugh should withdraw.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTime fumbles another 'Person of the Year' by excluding Kavanaugh Bottom Line Focus on Yemen, not the Saudi crown prince 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 McCarthyHillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — NRCC exposes security flaws 2 years after Russia hacks | Google Plus to shut down early | Scathing House report scolds Equifax for breach | McCarthy knocks Google ahead of CEO's hearing Brady releases revised version of year-end tax package McCarthy dismisses Dem-led Trump probes 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.