President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court will hinge on the votes of a handful of senators, including Arizona’s Jeff Flake, who was at the center of complex Senate maneuvering over Kavanaugh on Friday.
Flake, a Republican, backed Trump’s nominee in an afternoon committee vote, but said before voting that he had extracted a verbal commitment from other lawmakers for an FBI inquiry into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.
On Thursday, Christine Blasey Ford, a college professor from California, testified under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were high school students in Maryland in 1982. Kavanaugh angrily denied her accusations, as well as those of other women, in a dramatic committee hearing that lasted almost nine hours.
Flake’s FBI deal could mean a weeklong delay in final Senate action on the nomination. Two other senators said after the vote they supported Flake: Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Joe Manchin. Both are key swing votes on the matter.
Flake was among 11 Republicans voting for Kavanaugh at the committee level, overcoming 10 Democrats’ no votes, with the nomination next going to the full Senate. It is controlled 51-49 by Republicans. Here are the key swing votes.
* Jeff Flake. While he voted in favor of confirming Kavanaugh at the committee level, Flake said he had a verbal agreement with other lawmakers that the FBI would look into the allegations against the nominee. It was unclear if Flake’s floor vote would be contingent on the weeklong FBI probe taking place or on what it finds. Flake is not running for re-election.
* Susan Collins. A moderate who sometimes breaks from party ranks, Collins has said that if Kavanaugh lied about allegations of sexual misconduct, “That would be disqualifying.”
* Lisa Murkowski. An occasional party renegade, she has not said how she will vote. On Thursday, she told Reuters: “I find Dr. Ford’s testimony to be credible.” On Friday, she said she supported the idea of a delay in the planned Senate vote.
* Joe Manchin. Facing a re-election vote in November in the pro-Trump state of West Virginia, he said on Friday that he supported Flake’s call to delay voting so the FBI can investigate. “I applaud Senator Jeff Flake’s decision to rise above the partisan circus on display during this entire process,” Manchin said in a statement. “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.”
* Heidi Heitkamp. Facing a re-election campaign in North Dakota, a heavily pro-Trump state, she had already called for further investigation of Ford’s allegations.
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