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.

ADVERTISEMENT
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 McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants 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 GrassleyScandal in Puerto Rico threatens chance at statehood Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Democrat: Treasury 'acknowledged the unprecedented process' in Trump tax return rejection 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 LeeOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin Senate to vote on 9/11 victims bill on Tuesday Meghan McCain slams Rand Paul over blocking 9/11 compensation funding: 'This is a disgrace' 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 CollinsPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Overnight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (Alaska) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers 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) ManchinPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments MORE (Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments McConnell's Democratic challenger says she likely would have voted for Kavanaugh 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 open to killing filibuster in next Congress Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Senate Democrat releasing book on Trump admin's treatment of migrants at border MORE (Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator FTC looks to update children's internet privacy rules MORE (Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandHarris faces pressure to define policy proposals Democratic strategist predicts most 2020 candidates will drop out in late fall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over 'send her back' coverage MORE (N.Y.) said on Sunday that Kavanaugh should withdraw.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei 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 McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week EU official in Canada says he feels 'at home' there because no one was shouting 'send him back' 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.