POLITICS

Jeff Flake Suggests Delaying Kavanaugh Vote Amid Sexual Assault Allegations

The Arizona senator became the first Republican to urge the judiciary committee not to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination until his accuser can be heard.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Sunday became the first Republican on the Senate judiciary committee to suggest the group delay moving forward with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, amid allegations that the judge sexually assaulted a woman as a teenager.

The Senate judiciary committee may be unable to move ahead with a Thursday vote that would send Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the full Senate, after the judge’s previously unnamed accuser came forward Sunday.

Flake said Sunday that he would not be “comfortable” moving forward now that Christine Blasey Ford has revealed herself as the woman behind a letter detailing the allegations.

“If they push forward without any attempt with hearing what she’s had to say, I’m not comfortable voting yes... We need to hear from her,” Flake told Politico. “And I don’t think I’m alone in this.”

Republican members of the committee initially released a statement Sunday calling Ford’s motive into question, and seemed ready to continue with Kavanaugh’s nomination as scheduled.

Flake’s statement is significant and could potentially throw Kavanaugh’s bid for the high court in jeopardy, as the GOP holds a slim 11-10 advantage on the judiciary committee.

Moreover, Flake’s voice is likely to weigh heavily on the minds of GOP moderates such as Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who have not yet said how they intend to vote on Kavanaugh. Asked if the committee should proceed to vote this week as scheduled, Collins told CNN Sunday, “I’m going to be talking with my colleagues,” and declined to comment further.

Murkowski told CNN late Sunday that she was open to the idea of a delay on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The senator told the outlet’s Steve Brusk that “if there are more questions that need to be asked and answered, then I think it would be appropriate for that time.”

“This is not something that came up during the hearings,” Murkowski said. “The hearings are now over. And if there is real substance to this, it demands a response.”

Ford revealed her identity on Sunday in The Washington Post after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) confirmed on Thursday that she was in possession of a letter accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting a woman in his high school years. Ford alleges that Kavanaugh was “stumbling drunk” at a party in the 1980s when he pinned her to a bed, groped her, ground his body against hers and attempted to pull off her clothing. 

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. 

Senate judiciary committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Sunday he was working on setting up bipartisan calls to keep Kavanaugh’s confirmation on track.

Grassley’s office said it was working to hold calls alongside Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, to speak with Kavanaugh and Ford.

“The Chairman and Ranking Member routinely hold bipartisan staff calls with nominees when updates are made to nominees’ background files,” Grassley’s office said in a statement. “Given the late addendum to the background file and revelations of Dr. Ford’s identity, Chairman Grassley is actively working to set up such follow-up calls with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford ahead of Thursday’s scheduled vote.” 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another member of the judiciary committee, said he shared Grassley’s concerns about the timing of the accusations, but noted that he would be willing to listen to Ford if she “wished to provide information to the committee.” 

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is not on the committee, echoed Flake’s sentiments. He told Politico he doesn’t believe there should be a vote without Ford’s testimony.

Corker added that if Ford “does want to be heard, she should do so promptly.” 

Igor Bobic contributed to this report.

This story has been updated to include a statement from Corker and remarks from Murkowski.

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