This week: Allegations inject uncertainty into Kavanaugh nomination
© Anna Moneymaker

Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination has been thrown into limbo after a woman accusing him of sexual misconduct spoke publicly for the first time about the allegation on Sunday.

Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, recounted an incident from when she and Kavanaugh were in high school to The Washington Post, saying Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed at a party and attempted to remove her clothes.

Several Republicans, in the wake of Ford going public, opened the door to allowing Ford to speak with the panel ahead of a committee vote, which is currently scheduled for Thursday at 1:45 p.m.

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Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid Arpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument MORE (R-Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.), two critics of Trump’s who are retiring after 2018, said the Judiciary Committee should hear from Ford if she wants to speak with members.

“For me, we can’t vote until we hear more,” Flake told the Post.

Unlike Corker, Flake is a member of the Judiciary Committee, where Republicans hold a one-seat advantage.

Flake could complicate Kavanaugh’s path to the Senate floor if he sided with all Democrats on the committee and voted "no." But GOP leadership has procedural options to get Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the committee even if he can’t win over a majority of the panel.

GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week MORE (S.C.) also indicated he would be willing to listen to Ford but that he didn’t believe the timeline for confirming Kavanaugh should be altered. Republicans want him on the Supreme Court by October.

"If the committee is to hear from Ms. Ford it should be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled,” Graham said on Sunday.

But Republican leadership has shown no indications of changing its schedule for confirming Kavanaugh, giving the party a major win heading into the midterms and solidifying the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Judiciary Committee Republicans, released a lengthy statement on Sunday defending Kavanaugh, saying it was “disturbing” that “uncorroborated allegations … would surface on the eve of a committee vote after Democrats sat on them since July.”

“It raises a lot of questions about Democrats’ tactics and motives to bring this to the rest of the committee’s attention only now rather than during these many steps along the way,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster Hickenlooper announces Senate bid Trump orders elimination of student loan debt for thousands of disabled veterans MORE (R-Ky.) has said that he expects the Senate to hold a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh next week. A spokesman declined to comment Sunday, but the tightlipped GOP leader hasn’t indicated a change in schedule.

And Republicans are getting backup from GOP pundits and conservative outside groups, who are warning that blocking Kavanaugh, or withdrawing his nomination, would set a precedent for future nominees.

“It doesn't add up,” Carrie Severino, Judicial Crisis Network's chief counsel and policy director, said of the allegation. “But what does add up is that Democrats are doubling down on a strategy of character assassination, seeking to destroy the life of a distinguished public servant for the sake of appeasing their base."

Donald Trump Jr. mocked Democrats on Instagram by posting a photo of a note that asks, in childlike handwriting, "hi Cindy will you be my girlfriend," with boxes for checking yes or no.
 
"Oh boy... the Dems and their usual nonsense games really have him on the ropes now," Trump Jr. added. 

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWhite House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation MORE (R-Iowa) is working to set up staff calls with Kavanaugh and Ford ahead of the committee’s Thursday vote.

But Democrats rejected that offer on Sunday night, arguing the allegation needs to be investigated by federal authorities.

Republicans “cannot impartially investigate these disturbing allegations. That must be done by the FBI, and the vote must be postponed until it is complete,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a tweet.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech MORE (D-Calif.) added that staff calls “aren’t the appropriate way to handle this.”

“I agree with Senator Flake that we should delay this week’s vote. There’s a lot of information we don’t know and the FBI should have the time it needs to investigate this new material,” Feinstein said.

Democrats are largely uniting behind a call to delay Kavanaugh’s vote until an investigation can be completed, even as progressive outside groups have called for his nomination to be withdrawn.

The sexual misconduct allegation comes as Kavanaugh remains short of the 50 votes needed to be confirmed.

Neither GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost Collins downplays 2020 threat: 'Confident' reelection would go well if she runs Cook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' MORE (Maine) nor Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Green groups sue Trump over Endangered Species Act changes | Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency | Wildfires in Amazon rainforest burn at record rate Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency out west The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE (Alaska) have said how they will vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Murkowski told CNN on Sunday night that the committee "might" have to consider delaying Kavanaugh's vote.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (N.D.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Green groups sue Trump over Endangered Species Act changes | Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency | Wildfires in Amazon rainforest burn at record rate Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency out west GOP senator: Gun control debate 'hasn't changed much at all' back home MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyLobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (Ind.) were widely viewed as potential “yes” votes before the allegation surfaced last week. They are each running for reelection in states won by Trump and voted for Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

"He is continuing to review these serious allegations, and any and all information related to Judge Kavanaugh's nomination,” Donnelly’s office told an Indiana TV station.

Government funding

The Senate is poised to move this week to prevent an end-of-the-month government shutdown fight.

Congress sent its first "minibus" package to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE’s desk last week that included bills for military construction and veterans’ affairs, the legislative branch and energy and water.

This week, the Senate is expected to vote on a second mammoth deal to fund the Departments of Defense, Education, Labor and Health and Human Services for fiscal 2019. Negotiators announced a deal on the package, which represents the lion's share of government spending, last week.

With the House out of town this week the Senate is expected to go first on the deal holding a vote this week. That would tee the House up to pass the bill days before the end-of-month deadline.

Lawmakers are expected to attach a short-term continuing resolution to the package to fund the rest of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, through Dec. 7.

The move would avert a fight over Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall until after the midterm election.

Opioid

The Senate is poised to take up a bipartisan opioid funding package after pushing action on the effort last week.

Senators are expected to vote on the package, which is aimed at combating the nation’s opioid epidemic, on Monday evening, setting up a bipartisan win months before the midterm election.

The legislation, which includes more than 70 proposals from across five Senate committees, focuses on treatment and prevention as well as curbing the flow of illicit substances into the US.

It includes the the STOP Act, which was authored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and advocated by Trump on Twitter. The bill would crack down on the shipment of synthetic drugs like fentanyl to drug traffickers in the U.S.

In addition to the opioids package, the Senate is set to vote on legislation from Collins that bans "gag clauses" that prevent pharmacists from telling customers when they can save money on prescriptions by paying with cash instead of insurance.

The House passed its own opioid legislation in June. Once the Senate passes its legislation, they’ll need to work out the differences between their two bills before they can send the package to Trump’s desk.