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Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman accusing him of sexual misconduct during a party when they were teenagers will testify in public next week.

The hearing could be pivotal to Kavanaugh's confirmation, which was on a glide path until Christine Blasey Ford came forward publicly with her accusations on Sunday.

“There will be a full opportunity for both the accuser and the accused to be heard,” GOP Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) told reporters.

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Asked if he meant be heard publicly, Kennedy said “yes.”

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMellman: What happened after Ginsburg? Bottom line Bottom line MORE (R-Utah), a member of the Judiciary Committee, and a GOP staff member confirmed that the public hearing will occur on Monday, Sept. 24.

The announcement came as Republican members of the panel huddled behind closed doors on Monday evening to discuss a path forward for Kavanaugh's nomination, which was threatening to be derailed by the  assault allegation.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus MORE (R-Iowa), formally announced the hearing shortly after word of his decision leaked, saying it will give lawmakers a chance “give these recent allegations a full airing.”

“As I said earlier, anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has done deserves to be heard,” added Grassey, who chairs the Judiciary Committee.

The public hearing will spark a media frenzy around Capitol Hill, after Kavanaugh’s first round of confirmation hearings were marked by constant interruptions from protesters and testy back-and-forths among members of the committee.

The allegations against have Kavanaugh have drawn comparisons to the Anita Hill hearings, in which a former colleague of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas testified about allegations of sexual harassment. Thomas was confirmed despite Hill’s testimony, which was carried live on television at the time.

Republican senators signaled on Monday that they are accurately aware that the shadow of that public hearing is influencing how a public hearing with Kavanaugh and Ford will be viewed.

“I was just a young intern back in the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill days, but I don’t know how you can ever be sure. It’s the best process we have — it’s the only process,” said GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden eyeing Cindy McCain for UK ambassador position: report Profiles in cowardice: Trump's Senate enablers McSally concedes Arizona Senate race MORE (Ariz.) when asked how he would be able to determine who was telling the truth.

Hatch brushed off a question comparing the Kavanaugh allegations to the Hill hearings, saying the two instances had little in common.

“No, other than he’s being accused. I don’t see any similarities there,” said Hatch who took part of in the 1991 hearings. Pressed what the differences are, he added, “I’d prefer not to get into the differences between the two cases.”

The public hearing will pose a multi-pronged test to Senate Republicans less than two months before a midterm election where control of Congress hangs in the balance.

Both parties are conscious of the role that women voters will play in the midterms. Polls suggest women are breaking against the GOP and Trump, who has himself faced accusations of sexual harassment and assault.

And lawmakers have watched as several public officials, including some of their own colleagues, have been toppled in the "Me Too" era.

But Republicans were facing enormous pressure from multiple parts of their own caucus to give Ford the chance to speak with lawmakers before the Judiciary Committee took up the nomination for a vote.

Pressure built steadily on GOP leadership after Ford told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh pinned her down and tried to remove her clothes at a party when they were both in high school in the early 1980s.

“She deserves to be heard. That was the overwhelming decision. ...I would say it was overwhelming, certainly a majority—more felt that way than not—that she needed to be heard,” Flake said, asked about the GOP’s thinking on letting Ford speak publicly.

Flake said he warned leadership that he would vote no if Ford wasn't given the chance to testify publicly. He added that he remained undecided but if the allegation was true it would be "disqualifying."

GOP Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Trump's NATO ambassador pledges 'seamless' transition to Biden administration MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, was spotted leaving Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE's (R-Maine) office on Monday. The swing-vote senator also spoke with Grassley. 

“I told them that I thought it was very important that we hear from both Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh under oath on this issue,” Collins said, when asked about talks she had with leadership on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

GOP Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski: Trump should concede White House race Graham: Trump should attend Biden inauguration 'if' Biden wins OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration proceeds with rollback of bird protections despite objections | Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians | EU 2019 greenhouse gas emissions down 24 percent MORE (Alaska) added that Ford “should be heard and she must have an opportunity to present her story before the committee under oath, with Judge Kavanaugh having the opportunity to respond under oath as well.”

Both Collins and Murkowski are undecided on Kavanaugh’s nomination and how they decide to vote could determine if Kavanaugh ends up getting confirmed.

The decision to hold a public hearing on Monday, Sept. 24, means a committee vote scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20, is being postponed. Grassley couldn't tell reporters on Monday when it would be rescheduled. 

Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate meaning they can only afford to lose one GOP senator before they need to lean on Democrats to help confirm Kavanaugh.

Democratic Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty MORE (Ind.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate Major unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampMajor unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' in new administration MORE (N.D.) were viewed as potential swing votes on Kavanaugh, but that has been thrown into question amid the sexual assault allegation.

Collins and Murkowski weren’t the only Republicans saying they wanted to hear from Ford before moving forward with Kavanaugh’s nomination, underscoring the shaky ground his nomination was on over the allegation. 

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGrassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection MORE (R-Wis.) told a Wisconsin radio station on Monday that Ford “is willing to come forward and tell her story and we should listen to her."

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGraham: Trump should attend Biden inauguration 'if' Biden wins The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Coast-to-coast fears about post-holiday COVID-19 spread This week: Congress races to wrap work for the year MORE (R-Mo.) became the first member of leadership on Monday to say Ford’s allegation should be looked into before the Judiciary Committee moves forward.

And Flake and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE (Tenn.), two vocal GOP Trump critics who are retiring after this year, called for the a committee vote to be delayed until senators were able to talk to Ford.

Corker told reporters on Monday evening that Kavanaugh had called senators and told them he wanted to testify. 

The White House had said earlier Monday that Kavanaugh was ready to testify as soon as Tuesday if the Senate asks him to.

“Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him,” Raj Shah, a spokesman for the White House, said.

Republicans have faced growing calls for Kavanaugh and Ford, his accuser, to speak with lawmakers after Ford told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh pinned her down and tried to remove her clothes at a party when they were both in high school in the early 1980s.

It wasn't immediately clear if Ford had agreed to testify next week. But her lawyer said earlier Monday that she was willing to testify before the Judiciary Committee. 

—Updated at 8:07 p.m.