the kavanaugh hearings

Flake Forces Delay in Senate Floor Vote on Kavanaugh

Jeff Flake tossed a big curve at his fellow Republicans just before the Judiciary Committee’s vote today. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Much of the suspense surrounding today’s Senate Judiciary Committee vote on the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh dissipated this morning when Republican senator Jeff Flake, the only really undecided GOP vote on the committee, announced in favor of Kavanaugh. But it returned when Senator Chuck Grassley delayed the committee’s vote amid speculation that something was going on involving discussions just outside the hearing room involving Flake and committee Democrats.

When Flake finally returned, Grassley recognized the Arizonan, who said he’d vote for Kavanaugh while pressing for a one-week delay in the Senate floor vote to allow for a FBI investigation of the various allegations against the judge:

There was some additional confusion as to whether Flake was offering an actual motion proposing a delay (he wasn’t), and after some crosstalk, Grassley called for a vote on the confirmation — it passed by a straight party-line 11–10 vote — and gaveled the session to an end even as ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein audibly tried to clarify what had just happened.

Flake did not indicate he had any sort of deal to delay the floor vote, and while Grassley made supportive noises about his proposal, he also made it clear the decision would be up to Mitch McConnell. The White House has the final say, of course, since the executive branch is the one with the power to direct FBI investigations. Trump today said that he was willing to go along with Flake’s request:

Subsequently, Republican senators huddled — including, significantly, two other Republican senators who are on the fence, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — and McConnell has apparently seen the handwriting on the wall:

So it looks like a whole new ballgame.

Flake Forces Delay in Senate Floor Vote on Kavanaugh