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 FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Jeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump WANTED: A Republican with courage MORE (R-Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerJeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump Corker: 'I just don't' see path to challenge Trump in 2020 Ex-GOP Sen. Corker: Trump primary would be 'good thing for our country' 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 GrahamCongress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit Hillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity Roger Stone considers suing to discover if he was spied on by FBI 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests 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 GrassleyTrump mulling visit to ethanol refinery later this month: report Nursing home care: A growing crisis for an aging America  Senate chairman says bipartisan health care package coming Thursday 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 SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a tweet.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThis week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks Senate confirms Rosen for No. 2 spot at DOJ Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips 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 CollinsCollins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights Women's civil rights are not a state issue MORE (Maine) nor Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCongress must press Interior secretary to act on climate change Senate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Women's civil rights are not a state issue 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 HeitkampOn The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes MORE (N.D.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Labor head warns of 'frightening uptick' in black lung disease among miners Labor leader: Trump has stopped erosion of coal jobs MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyObama honors 'American statesman' Richard Lugar Former GOP senator Richard Lugar dies at 87 Ralph Reed: Biden is a 'formidable and strong candidate' 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 TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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.