Live coverage: Senate Judiciary to vote on Kavanaugh confirmation

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote Friday on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Most of the members of the panel have already made their minds up, putting the spotlight on Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar Trump keeps tight grip on GOP MORE, an Arizona Republican who is undecided.

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Flake is retiring at the end of this Congress and has frequently tangled with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'Haven't thought about' pardons for Mueller target Pence: Rocket attack 'proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace' Conservation remains a core conservative principle MORE.

The vote comes about 24 hours after Christine Blasey Ford offered testimony to the panel about her accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school. 

Kavanaugh on Thursday afternoon appeared before the panel and forcefully denied those allegations, hammering Democrats for their handling of the controversy.

The Hill will be providing live updates on the panel's vote. The full Senate could hold its confirmation vote next week.

Judiciary panel approves Kavanaugh, sending nomination to full Senate

2:01 p.m.

The Judiciary Committee voted to advance Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination on Friday after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said he secured a deal to delay a floor vote on the nomination for a week to allow the FBI to investigate sexual assault allegations.

It's still not clear whether Kavanaugh can get to at least 50 votes on the Senate floor, which would allow Vice President Pence to break a tie and confirm him to the Supreme Court.

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate rejection of Green New Deal won't slow Americans' desire for climate action Senate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRed dresses displayed around American Indian museum to memorialize missing, murdered native women Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (Alaska) remain undecided.

Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGreen New Deal vote tests Dem unity in Senate Romney helps GOP look for new path on climate change Manchin says he won't support LGBTQ protection bill as written MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampRed dresses displayed around American Indian museum to memorialize missing, murdered native women Lobbying World Lobbying World MORE (N.D.) are undecided on the Democratic side after Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyLobbying World Lobbying World Overnight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down MORE (Ind.), another Democrat up for reelection in November in a red state, said he would vote "no" on Kavanaugh.

– Alexander Bolton and Jordain Carney 

Flake: Delay Kavanaugh vote for FBI investigation

1:51 p.m.

GOP Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) said Friday that the full Senate vote on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination should be delayed for up to a week to let the FBI investigate several sexual assault allegations.

Flake said he was voting for Kavanaugh with the understanding that Republican colleagues would support a one-week delay to give the FBI time to investigate.

"I have been speaking with a number of people on the other side … in regard to making sure that we do due diligence here," Flake said.

"I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI do an investigation, limited in time and scope," he added. 

"I will only be comfortable moving on the floor until the FBI has done more investigation than they have already,” Flake continued. “It may not take them a week. I understand that some of these witnesses may not want to discuss anything further but I think we owe them due diligence.”

– Jordain Carney

1:30 deadline passes with no vote and plenty of confusion

1:37 p.m.

The 1:30 p.m. deadline for having a vote on Kavanaugh has come and gone without an explanation from Grassley.

Flake, who announced this morning he would vote for the nominee but also expressed doubt about what to make of Kavanaugh’s testimony Thursday, has been missing from the hearing room for a while, prompting speculation he may have changed his mind or may want a delay before a panel vote.

Flake emerged briefly from the anteroom and asked Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThis week: Congress set for next stage of Mueller probe fight Dem senator: 'Appropriate' for Barr, Mueller to testify publicly about Russia probe GOP lawmaker offers constitutional amendment capping Supreme Court seats at 9 MORE (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, to follow him back inside for a private discussion. He had a deeply concerned expression on his face. 

Flake was confronted by protesters this morning after announcing his support for Kavanaugh.

Flake said he felt compelled to support Kavanaugh in the absence of corroborating evidence backing up Ford’s claim that he committed a sexual assault in the early 1980s.

Republicans have filed back and forth to the committee's anteroom and there have have been intense whispered conversations among members for the past 40 minutes. 

– Alexander Bolton

Delay in action as lawmakers wait for vote

1:23 pm

There’s a pause in the action as Republican senators have finished speaking and the locked-in vote on Kavanaugh isn’t due to take place until 1:30 p.m.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTreasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' Drug prices are a matter of life and death MORE (R-Iowa) says the committee will “stand at ease until the next gavel.”

In the meantime, there have been a number of bipartisan discussions behind the dais. 

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseTrump approves Nebraska disaster declaration Nebraska lawmakers urge Trump to approve disaster funding Republicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump MORE (R-Neb.) chatted intensely with Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGreen New Deal vote tests Dem unity in Senate Dems introduce bill requiring disclosure of guest logs from White House, Trump properties Sanders announces first staff hires in Iowa, New Hampshire MORE (D-R.I.) while Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) whispered remarks back and forth with Grassley. 

Whitehouse raised the possibility that the vote may need to be delayed but Grassley rejected the notion.

“Mr. Chairman, given what’s happening in the interim, I think more time is needed. I think you could get a unanimous consent to push the vote back pretty easily, if you need a few more minutes,” Whitehouse said. 

Grassley replied: “We made a decision to vote at 1:30. If there’s some reason to change that then we’ll have to change it, but I’m not even going to get into discussion about that right now.”

– Alexander Bolton

Committee room nearly empty of Democrats

1:02 p.m.

Democrats have left the committee room after delivering their statements of opposition against Kavanaugh and now only Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) is left on the Democratic side of the dais.

It looks like the vote on Kavanaugh will be 11 to 0 with every Republican member of the panel supporting him and every Democrat abstaining in protest.

Blumenthal panned Kavanaugh’s testimony before the committee as threatening and full of rancor.

“The person we saw come before us yesterday was filled with such rancor and anger,” he said. “I cannot accept that he would be an impartial and objective justice on the United States Supreme Court.”

– Alexander Bolton

Kennedy: Kavanaugh hearing a 'grotesque carnival'

1 p.m.

GOP Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) knocked his colleagues for their handling of Kavanaugh's nomination and the sexual assault allegations against him, comparing it to a "grotesque carnival" and "an intergalactic freak show." 

"As far as I'm concerned Congress has hit rock bottom and started to dig," Kennedy told his colleagues.

He added, referring to comments from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), that how women are treated in America "does matter." 

"This is no country for creepy old men or young men or middle aged men. But this is no country in my opinion, at least not the kind of country I want to live in, without due process," Kennedy said.

Kennedy also lashed out at whoever leaked Christine Blasey Ford's letter detailing her assault allegation, which was initially given privately to two members of Congress. 

"You know who you are. You should bow your head in shame in my opinion and you should hide your head in a bag every day for the rest of your natural life," Kennedy said.

– Jordain Carney 

Tester to oppose Kavanaugh

12:26 p.m.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSanders, Ocasio-Cortez back 'end the forever war' pledge Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ White House pleads with Senate GOP on emergency declaration MORE (D-Mont.) said Friday that he will oppose Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.

Tester said Friday that he has a myriad of "concerns" about Kavanaugh, but could not get an in-person meeting with him to discuss the issues.

“I have concerns that Judge Kavanaugh defended the PATRIOT Act instead of Montanans' privacy. I have concerns about his support for more dark money in politics. I have concerns about who he believes is in charge of making personal health decisions," Tester said.

Tester added that he had "deep concerns about the allegations of sexual assault against Judge Kavanaugh."

Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the first of Kavanaugh's accusers to come forward publicly, testified before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Tester noted that because he couldn't schedule a meeting with Kavanaugh the "only information I have is from what he said in his hearing."

Republicans don't need Tester's vote to confirm Kavanaugh. They have a 51-49 majority and can lose one Republican senator before they need help from Democrats.

No Republican senator has said she or he will oppose Kavanaugh. Moderate GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) are the two Republican senators who remain undecided.

Tester is the latest Democrat from a state President Trump won in 2016 to say he will oppose Kavanaugh.

Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonEx-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances The Hill's Morning Report - Trump budget reignites border security fight 2020 party politics in Puerto Rico MORE (Fla.) and Doug Jones (Ala.) also announced their opposition following Thursday's hearing.

Tester and Nelson did not support Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and were viewed as likely "no" votes on Kavanaugh.

Donnelly was one of three Democrats who supported Gorsuch. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) remain undecided.

– Jordain Carney

Kavanaugh's alma mater calls on Senate to delay vote

12:16 p.m.

The dean of Brett Kavanaugh’s alma mater is calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to postpone its vote on whether to send Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court to the Senate floor for a vote. 

Dean Heather Gerken on Friday called for further investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh in a statement released by Yale Law School. 

“I join the American Bar Association in calling for an additional investigation into the allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh,” she said. “Proceeding with the confirmation process without further investigation is not in the best interest of the court or our profession.” 

In a letter Thursday night, American Bar Association (ABA) President Bob Carlson urged Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) to hold a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh only after the FBI has conducted an investigation. 

"We make this request because of the ABA’s respect for the rule of law and due process under law," he wrote. "The basic principles that underscore the Senate’s constitutional duty of advice and consent on federal judicial nominees require nothing less than a careful examination of the accusations and facts by the FBI."

In a statement White House Spokesman Raj Shah noted the ABA is separate from the independent Standing Committee, which rated Kavanaugh "well-qualified." 

"The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary is separate and independent from its parent organization and has rated Judge Kavanaugh unanimously well-qualified. That hasn't changed," he said. 

– Lydia Wheeler

Whitehouse says Kavanaugh's 1982 calendar may corroborate Ford’s claims

11:20 a.m.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a former prosecutor and state attorney general, held up an enlarged copy of Kavanaugh’s high-school calendar from the summer of 1982 and argued that it may corroborate Ford’s allegation.

He emphasized that the calendar made reference to attending a small party with two boys, Mark Judge and Patrick J. Smyth, whom Ford said were present at the house where she says Kavanaugh assaulted her.

Kavanaugh confirmed Thursday to outside counsel Rachel Mitchell that his calendar referred to Judge and Smyth. Whitehouse on Friday seized on that as significant evidence.

Whitehouse noted that Christine Blasey Ford testified that Kavanaugh, Judge, Smyth and another boy were at the house when she was assaulted.

He pointed to a calendar entry showing those three and others getting together for beers at “Timmy’s” house on July 1 of that year.

“We know Bart Kavanaugh [sic] was there cause it’s his schedule and here’s Judge and here’s P.J.,” he said, referring to Smyth. “Here are all those three named boys and others at a house together just as she said.”

He noted that Kavanaugh wrote on his calendar that they gathered for “skis,” a slang term for beers, also known as brewskis.

“They were drinking, just as she said,” he said.

Whitehouse acknowledged that neither Ford nor the other girl she said was at the party were listed on the calendar but argued there could be a credible reason for that.

“If you had just sexually assaulted one of the two girls. Would you add the girls names to your calendar? I doubt it,” he said.

“This may — may — be powerful corroborating evidence that the assault happened, that it happened that day and that it happened in that place,” he said. “But with no FBI investigation we can’t tell.”

Grassley later disputed Whitehouse’s interpretation of the calendar.

He noted Kavanaugh wrote that six boys were at the July 1 party.

“Dr. Ford said there were four boys there. The calendar lists six plus Kavanaugh, that’s seven. That’s the wrong gathering,” Grassley said.

– Alexander Bolton

Donnelly announces opposition to Kavanaugh

11:40 a.m.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), one of only three Democrats who voted for President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, says he will oppose Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s second pick to the high court.

Donnelly, who faces a tough reelection in a state that Trump carried by double digits in 2016, was considered one of the Democrats most likely to back Kavanaugh.

“I have deep reservations about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to this lifetime position and, as I stated, we have been unable to get all the information necessary regarding this nomination, despite my best efforts. Only 113 people have ever served on the Supreme Court, and I believe that we must do our level best to protect its sanctity,” he said in a statement. 

– Alexander Bolton

Graham: I'm a 'single white male,' but I won't shut up

10:50 a.m.

GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamConservation remains a core conservative principle Graham: McCain 'acted appropriately' by handing Steele dossier to FBI The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems eye next stage in Mueller fight MORE (S.C.) said during the meeting on Friday that he knew he was a "single white male" but he wouldn't "shut up." 

"I know I'm a single white male from South Carolina and I'm told I should shut up, but I will not shut up if that's okay," Graham said. 

Graham didn't say what prompted his remark. Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoCitizens lose when partisans play politics with the federal judiciary Warren, Harris, Gillibrand back efforts to add justices to Supreme Court Liberal commentator: Trump's warning that supporters could play tough is a 'violent dog whistle' MORE (D-Hawaii), a fellow member of the Judiciary Committee, said earlier this month that "the men of this country" should "shut up and step up for once."   

Graham has been fervently supportive of Kavanaugh's nomination. He characterized the allegations against President Trump's nominee as being in the "twilight zone." 

"All I can say about Ms. Ford, I feel sorry for her and I do believe something happened to her ... but I don't believe it was Brett Kavanaugh. And as a prosecutor you couldn't get out of the batters box," Graham added.  

He added that Ford's allegations were not enough to charge or get a warrant against Kavanaugh.  

"How are you supposed to defend yourself? Is the burden really on you to prove that you were not at a party 35 years ago and they won't tell you where it was or when it was?" Graham asked. 

– Jordain Carney 

Leahy: Senate Judiciary Committee has lost all independence

10:35 a.m. 

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyTop Senate Dem to Trump: It would be a 'grave mistake' to follow in Richard Nixon's footsteps Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Hillicon Valley: Mueller delivers report, ending investigation | FEMA exposed info of 2.3M disaster survivors | Facebook asks judge to toss DC privacy lawsuit | Trump picks his first CTO | FCC settles lawsuit over net neutrality records MORE (Vt.), the longest serving Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, blasted Republicans for jettisoning their independence in their push to get Kavanaugh confirmed by next week.

“This Judiciary Committee is no longer an independent branch of Congress, and we’re supposed to be. The Senate is supposed to be,” he said.

“We’re an arm in a very weak arm of the Trump White House,” he said. “Every semblance of independence has disappeared. It’s gone. And I think that’s something historians will look at and call it a turning point in the United States Senate.”

Leahy accused Republicans of months of breaking “precedent after precedent in a manic rush to fill a Supreme Court seat.”

He said the committee is poised to advance a nominee “credibly accused of sexual assault and the committee hasn’t even conducted a meaningful investigation.”

Leahy grew louder and angrier as he wrapped up his comments.

He warned that the committee’s failure to take Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony more seriously would likely dissuade victims of sexual assault from coming forward in the future.

“How this committee handles this nomination [is] a reflection of how seriously our society views credible claims of sexual misconduct,” he said.

– Alexander Bolton

Democrats hold presser after walkout 

10:31 a.m.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee held an impromptu press conference in the hallway of a Senate office building after walking out of a meeting where a vote is imminent on whether to send Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Senate floor.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisJam-packed primary poses a serious threat to Democrats in 2020 Pence hits 2020 Dems for skipping AIPAC Ex-GOP lawmaker Handel to run for her former Georgia seat in 2020 MORE (D-Calif.), who was joined by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), slammed Republicans for refusing to conduct an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against the nominee.

“This is about raw power. You’re seeing that displayed in this hearing this morning, you’ve been seeing it from the process in the beginning,” she said.

Hirono said there are still some senators who haven’t decided how they are going to vote.

“I hope they are searching their souls and will do the right thing,” she said.

Hironi said Kavanaugh’s opening statement was too partisan to be a Supreme Court justice.

“I have never heard a Supreme Court justice come out and say there is a vast left-wing conspiracy to undermine his nomination,” she said.

She also said Democrats had not coordinated the walkout.

“We did not coordinate walking out. You know we feel this in here,” he said pointing to her heart.

– Lydia Wheeler

House Democratic women protest vote on Kavanaugh

10:06 a.m.

A group of female House Democratic lawmakers suddenly stood up in silent protest of Kavanaugh while Grassley was in the middle of his opening statement.

Grassley appeared distracted by the move but plowed through his remarks while the Democratic lawmakers stood, looking at him solemnly from the back of the room.

The protesters included Reps. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzGOP turns Venezuela into Florida attack line Dem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media Trump's emergency declaration looms over Pentagon funding fight MORE (Fla.), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump attacks on McCain rattle GOP senators Harris to make hard Texas push, recruits key O'Rourke aide: report Trio of NFL players intern on Capitol Hill as part of league program MORE (Texas), Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements New York Rep. Maloney endorses Gillibrand for president Pelosi says impeaching Trump 'just not worth it' MORE (N.Y.), Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeDem support grows for allowing public funds to pay for abortions Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Harris receives endorsement from 6 home-state mayors MORE (Calif.), Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.) and Grace NapolitanoGraciela (Grace) Flores NapolitanoLive coverage: Senate Judiciary to vote on Kavanaugh confirmation House passes bipartisan water infrastructure bill House panel approves water infrastructure bill MORE (Calif.).

The moment caused a minor commotion in the room as reporters looked to see what the Capitol Police would do.

As an officer approached the lawmakers, they silently filed out of the room.

– Alexander Bolton

Feinstein: Kavanaugh was aggressive and belligerent

10:13 a.m.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Brett Kavanaugh was aggressive and belligerent Thursday when he came before the committee to deny allegations of sexual assault.

“Candidly, in the 25 years on this committee, I have never seen a nominee for any position behave in that manner,” she said. “Judge Kavanaugh used as much political rhetoric as my Republican colleagues and what’s more he went on the attack.”

Feinstein then quoted Kavanaugh directly, recalling how he called some Democratic committee members an embarrassment, accused them of lying in wait and replacing advice and consent with "search and destroy."

“This was not someone who reflected an impartial temperament or the fairness and even handedness one would see in a judge,” she said. “This was someone who was aggressive and belligerent. I have never seen someone who wants to be elevated to the highest court in our country behave in that manner.”

– Lydia Wheeler

Democrats walk out of hearing room in protest

9:50 a.m.

Four Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee walked out of the hearing room in protest after Republicans decided along party lines to schedule a “time certain” vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for 1:30 p.m.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) walked out of the room, causing a burst of activity from photographers in the well of the hearing room who captured the moment.

“I strongly object. This is just totally ridiculous. What a railroad job. My answer is no, no, no!” Hirono yelled out shortly before leaving the room.

Harris declined to vote, staying silent to protest Republicans' handling of the nomination, as did Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNew Jersey set to cancel vote to legalize recreational marijuana Jam-packed primary poses a serious threat to Democrats in 2020 Poll: Biden, Sanders lead Trump in Iowa MORE (D-N.J.).

A clearly frustrated Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) rebuked the photographers for standing up to take snapshots of the Democratic protest, obstructing the view of the audience, and threatened to kick them out.

“I’m sure a lot of people are irritated right now,” Grassley said as he wrapped up his comments.

He also reproached Harris for remaining silent during the roll call scheduling a vote on Kavanaugh.

“It breaks our rules and customs,” Grassley said.

The panel is expected to approve Kavanaugh's confirmation on Friday given the support of a key Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.).

– Alexander Bolton

Republicans reject effort to subpoena Mark Judge

9:53 a.m.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected an effort by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to subpoena Mark Judge in a party-line vote.

Christine Blasey Ford alleges that Judge witnessed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assault her at a high school party in the early 1980s.

Kavanaugh has denied wrongdoing and Judge says he does not recall such an incident.

Blumenthal said Ford's testimony showed there were "details in that story that can be corroborated and other facts that can be uncovered if we hear from other witnesses."

"[Judge] has never been interviewed by the FBI. He has never been questioned by any member of our committee. He has never submitted a detailed account of what he knows and so I move ... that we subpoena Mark Judge," Blumenthal added.

But Grassley read a letter that Judge sent the committee on Thursday. Judge says in the letter that he "never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes."

"Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school, but we have not spoken directly in several years. I do not recall the events described by Dr. Ford in her testimony before the US Senate Judiciary Committee today. I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes," Judge said in the statement to the committee.

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) both refused to vote on the matter in a symbolic rebuke of the process.

– Jordain Carney

Flake's 'yes' vote comes despite Trump clashes

9:45 a.m.

Sen. Jeff Flake's (R-Ariz.) support for Kavanaugh could set up President Trump for a major win, despite their fierce differences over the past two years.

Flake denounced Trump when he announced his retirement from the Senate in October.

In a memorable floor speech, he warned the GOP was heading in the wrong direction on Trump’s leadership, urging fellow Republicans that “we must stop pretending that the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal.”

“Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused as telling it like it is when it is actually reckless, outrageous and undignified,” he said.

Flake has also emerged as one of Trump’s toughest Republican critics on trade and has led the effort to pass legislation that would rein in the president’s power to impose tariffs.

But that didn't appear to come into play with his support for Kavanaugh.

– Alexander Bolton

Flake to vote 'yes'

9:32 a.m.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) says he will vote in favor of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, ensuring his nomination's passage through the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

“While some may argue that a different standard should apply regarding the Senate’s advice and consent responsibilities, I believe that the constitution’s provisions of fairness and due process apply here as well. I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” Flake said.

He added that while he found Ford’s testimony to be “compelling,” he “left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty.”

Flake’s decision comes less than a day after an emotional, hours-long hearing where both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a woman accusing him of sexual assault, testified before the Judiciary Committee.

"I wish that I could express the confidence that some of my colleagues have conveyed about what either did or did not happen in the early 1980s, but I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty,” he said.

– Jordain Carney

Nina Totenberg arrives for vote

9:20 a.m.

National Public Radio’s legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, who broke the story about Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, has arrived for the historic committee vote.

Totenberg is telling fellow reporters some of her recollections about Thomas’s confirmation, which narrowly passed the Democratic-controlled Senate.  

She tells colleagues that it appears that Kavanaugh has enough votes to pass.

Hearing room opens for business.  

8:50 a.m.

Senate staff have opened the Judiciary Committee hearing room where Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testified for nearly eight hours Thursday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said late Thursday evening that he wasn’t sure whether Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the only swing vote on the panel, would decide to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Flake did not give any indication to colleagues which way he was leaning during a meeting of the entire Senate GOP conference late Thursday.

The committee is scheduled to begin debate on Kavanaugh at 9:30 a.m. and a vote is expected later this morning.

Grassley, however, declined on Thursday evening to commit to actually holding a vote since Flake’s position remains undecided.

There’s heavy security around the hearing room on the second floor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Reporters and staff are being asked to show identification to get anywhere near the room.

– Alexander Bolton