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 McConnellOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Poll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump 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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin 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 LeeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times The 10 GOP senators who may break with Trump on emergency Congress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support 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 CollinsOn The Money: Senate Dems to introduce resolution blocking Trump emergency declaration | Banks made billion in extra profits thanks to GOP tax law | IRS analyst charged with leaking Cohen's financial records Senate Dems to introduce resolution blocking Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate Dems to introduce resolution blocking Trump's emergency declaration GOP Sen. Collins says she'll back resolution to block Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times MORE (Alaska) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePoll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union 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) ManchinOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal Gabbard cites ‘concerns’ about ‘vagueness’ of Green New Deal MORE (D-W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction 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 MerkleyDems face tough vote on Green New Deal GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The border deal: What made it in, what got left out MORE (Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyClimate hedgehogs and foxes Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run AOC's green deal isn't new — it's been a flop in Germany MORE (Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night MORE (N.Y.) said on Sunday that Kavanaugh should withdraw.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line 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 McCarthySteve King spins GOP punishment into political weapon Steve King asks for Congressional Record correction over white supremacist quote Steve King urges supporters to pray for his committee assignments to be restored: report 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.