Kavanaugh's nomination in jeopardy? GOP senators say sexual assault allegations "demand a response"

In order for Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to fail, at least two Republican senators would need to vote against him

By Matthew Rozsa
September 17, 2018 4:06PM (UTC)
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Brett Kavanaugh (AP/Andrew Harnik)

In order for Brett Kavanaugh not to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, at least two Republican senators would need to vote against his confirmation. Now it looks like three of them are potentially open to the possibility of doing so – at least until he addresses serious sexual misconduct accusations against him.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has emerged as a chief conservative critic of President Donald Trump, told Politico on Sunday that he would oppose advancing Kavanaugh's nomination to the top bench if the allegation of attempted rape by Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor from California, are not more thoroughly explored. Because Flake is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, his refusal to support Kavanaugh would force his nomination to be referred to the rest of the Senate with either a negative recommendation or without a committee vote at all.


"I think it’s too soon to tell, but Flake is the one man with the leverage to do this," Rick Wilson, a top Republican strategist and outspoken critic of Trump, told Politico. "With the one-vote margin on the committee, Jeff Flake has the power to stop Kavanaugh and to humiliate Trump. Revenge is a dish best served cold, as the philosopher once said."

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And Flake is not alone, as Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have also made similar claims. Corker, who like Flake is also not running for reelection to the Senate, has claimed that the Senate Judiciary Committee should not vote until they have talked to Ford. Murkowski, whose constituents have rallied against Kavanaugh's nomination, has suggested that the vote may need to be delayed, according to CNN.


"Well, I think that might be something they might have to consider – at least having that discussion," Murkowski told CNN when asked about delaying the vote. "This is not something that came up during the hearings. The hearings are now over, and if there is real substance to this, it demands a response. That may be something the committee needs to look into."

And there is one other wild card Republican senator in play: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, whose support for women's rights on issues like abortion could make her vote a touchy one when it comes to confirming the anti-choice Kavanaugh. Collins also recently announced on Twitter that she wanted to hear from Ford and Kavanaugh before issuing her vote.

This does not mean that Kavanaugh's nomination is imminently doomed, however. As Amber Phillips wrote in The Washington Post on Monday:


Republicans control a majority in the Senate and thus can approve his nomination with a majority of votes.

A lot is also on the line politically for Republicans right now, and they’re under a tight timeline. By putting Kavanaugh on the court to replace retired justice Anthony M. Kennedy, they can firm up the court’s conservative majority just weeks before midterm elections where their congressional majorities could be at stake.

The longer this nomination is held up, the longer the allegations could simmer, and the more trouble Kavanaugh could be in. It’s likely that starting from scratch wouldn’t get them a nominee on the court before the midterm elections, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Democrats could take back the Senate in November.

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Bob Corker Brett Kavanaugh Donald Trump Jeff Flake Lisa Murkowski Supreme Court Susan Collins