GOP leaders delay Kavanaugh confirmation for one-week FBI investigation
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 Manchin (W.Va.), a potential swing vote.
Flake noted that he had talks with Democrats, including Sen. Chris Coons (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 Hatch (Utah) and John Kennedy (La.), declined to comment, citing a pending statement from Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (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.