GOP says they’re moving forward with Friday vote on Kavanaugh

Republicans emerged from a closed-door caucus meeting on Thursday night saying they will move forward Friday with a committee vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

The vote will come a day after dramatic testimony from the nominee and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexual assault.

Several Republicans, including GOP Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), said the plan is for the Judiciary Committee to hold a vote on Friday, which would pave the way for a vote to end debate in the full Senate on Monday and a final vote on his nomination Tuesday.

“I’m optimistic, yeah. I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be voted out positively,” Cornyn told reporters as he left the Capitol for the night.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that the committee would vote Friday and said Republicans were “very optimistic we’re going to succeed.”

{mosads}The one vote on Judiciary in question is Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has feuded with President Trump and in a floor speech this week criticized both sides on the Kavanaugh matter. He is officially undecided on Kavanaugh.

Flake is officially undecided on Kavanaugh and gave few hints during the hours-long Thursday hearing about which way he was leaning.

He told reporters after the closed-door meeting that he remained undecided and wanted to think on the decision over Thursday night, setting up a potentially dramatic moment at the Judiciary Committee vote on Friday.

“It’s a tough one,” he said of Kavanaugh’s nomination, adding that he is still “chasing down a few things.”

“They both did well. He offered a defense like you would expect from someone who felt they were wrongly accused and you know, she offered compelling testimony as well,” Flake added.
If Flake votes “yes” on Kavanaugh, that would allow Republicans to favorably vote him out of the Judiciary Committee. If he sides with every Democrat on the panel—none of whom are expected to vote for Trump’s nominee—Republicans would need to look at other procedural options to get him to the Senate floor.
Republicans are moving forward even as they acknowledged after the roughly hour-long meeting that its was unclear if they had the votes to ultimately get Kavanaugh confirmed or even reported favorably out of the Judiciary Committee. 
They got a boost after the meeting when Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who had been undecided but favorable of Kavanaugh, formally announced that he would vote yes.

“There is no question that Judge Kavanaugh is qualified to serve on the Supreme Court, and in a different political environment, he would be confirmed overwhelmingly,” Corker said. “I believe Judge Kavanaugh has conducted himself as well as anyone could expect throughout this process and plan to vote to confirm him.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) refused to answer most questions except to tell reporters that the committee will be holding its business meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

“It depends on what happens tomorrow. We’re meeting at 9:30 a.m.,” Grassley said.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) added that it was now up to GOP leadership to “go count votes.”

McConnell called the caucus meeting so the caucus could discus the floor and vote schedule after the hearing, a spokesman told The Hill earlier Thursday.

Rachel Mitchell, the outside counsel, joined senators for most of the meeting to discuss her impression of the hearing and the facts established during the hours-long process.

“We just talked about the hearing and gave opportunities for other members to ask questions who weren’t on the committee,” Tillis added of the closed-door meeting.

Besides Flake, Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) remain undecided among Republicans.
Murkowski didn’t indicate to reporters as she left the meeting if she had made a decision.

“I am going to go home, have some dinner and have a chance to think about all that’s gone on,” she told reporters, asked how was feeling about the hearing.

Because Republicans hold a narrow 51-seat majority they can only afford to lose one GOP senator and still confirm Kavanaugh without help from Democrats. 
Several red-state Democrats including Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) haven’t said how they will vote.

Manchin huddled with Collins, Murkowski and Flake before the closed-door GOP caucus meeting in Thursday.

He told reporters ahead of the GOP meeting that he had “nothing to say” and “no decision has been made.”

–Juliegrace Brufke and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report that was updated at 9:17 p.m.

Tags Bob Corker Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp Jeff Flake Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin John Cornyn Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell Susan Collins Thom Tillis
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