GOP leaders delay Kavanaugh confirmation for one-week FBI investigation

Senate Republicans on Friday agreed to ask the FBI to investigate sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a move that will temporarily delay his nomination.
 
The move came as multiple senators, including GOP Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (Ariz.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Sarah Palin says she's praying about running for Senate against Murkowski Graham says he has COVID-19 'breakthrough' infection MORE (Alaska), called for the FBI to be given a chance to investigate, raising questions about if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns MORE (R-Ky.) would be able to move the nomination without a deal.
 
“There’s essentially going to be a supplemental FBI background investigation,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters.

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Asked how long the FBI would have to investigate, Cornyn said not more than a week.
 
The Judiciary Committee said in a statement that it will ask the administration to instruct the FBI to conduct the investigation. 
 
"The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today," the committee said in a statement.
 
 
"As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week," he added.
 
Senators are still expected to hold a procedural vote on Kavanaugh's nomination on Saturday. But a vote to end debate on Kavanaugh on Monday and hold a final vote on his nomination Tuesday are expected to be pushed back to allow the FBI investigation to wrap up.
 
Flake said that he expected that as part of the agreement Democrats would let Republicans do the Saturday vote as a voice vote instead of forcing the Senate to hold a rare weekend session. Cornyn also noted he thought that Saturday could be a voice vote.  

The decision is a u-turn for Republicans and the White House, who have repeatedly dismissed the need for having the FBI reopen Kavanaugh’s background check investigation. The bureau, they argued, had already done six background checks and would not reach a conclusion about the allegations.

Trump's order for a new FBI investigation came hours after the Judiciary Committee sent Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate after Flake's agreement.

"I'm a conservative. I would love to see Judge Kavanaugh confirmed and I would hope to be able to do that, but I want a better process,” Flake told reporters after a meeting in McConnell’s office. 

Flake alone can’t hold up Kavanaugh’s nomination. But he was quickly backed by multiple undecided senators, signaling Kavanaugh’s nomination will likely be delayed.

Murkowski, a key swing vote, told reporters that she supports Flake’s request to delay a vote for up to a week

"I support the FBI having an opportunity to bring some closure to this," she said.

Murkowski and GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) are the two Republicans who remain undecided on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Collins told reporters on Friday afternoon that asking for the one-week delay to let the FBI investigate was an “important development” that she hoped would let the Senate “go forward.”

Flake pointed to Collins and Murkowski as "pivotal" and "very much involved" in the negotiations inside McConnell's office. Asked if he knew they had his back when he made the decision to ask for a delay, Flake added: "I assumed. We've talked. I knew that ... people needed to be more comfortable moving ahead." 

Democrats quickly lauded Flake for his effort to let the FBI investigate the current allegations.

“I applaud Senator Jeff Flake’s decision to rise above the partisan circus on display during this entire process. It took courage to take a stand and call for a one-week FBI investigation to get to the bottom of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. ... It is what is right and fair for Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, and the American people,” said Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Graham says he has COVID-19 'breakthrough' infection MORE (W.Va.), a potential swing vote.

Flake noted that he had talks with Democrats, including Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE (Del.), but said most of the momentum came from talks with his Republican colleagues “who feel more comfortable moving ahead to a final vote once the FBI has done a supplemental background check."

Several GOP senators, including Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDrug prices are declining amid inflation fears The national action imperative to achieve 30 by 30 Financial market transactions should not be taxed or restricted MORE (Utah) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.), declined to comment, citing a pending statement from Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyBiden names new watchdog at finance agency after embattled IG departs McConnell warns Democrats against 'artificial timeline' for infrastructure deal Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (R-Iowa).

Kennedy said Republicans had reached an “accord,” but declined to provide details.

The decision comes a day after Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh testified publicly before the Judiciary panel in a rollercoaster hearing about the sexual assault allegations.

Ford delivered gripping testimony accusing Kavanaugh of pinning her to a bed and trying to remove her clothes at a house gathering while the pair where in high school in 1982.

Kavanaugh has flatly denied the allegations and blasted the confirmation process as a "national disgrace" during the hearing Thursday.

– Updated: 5:08 p.m.