Washington, Sep 28 (AP) Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh gained the support of a key Republican senator Friday, virtually ensuring his nomination will advance to the full Senate a day after he adamantly denied the high-school-years sexual assault of a woman who testified she was “100 per cent” he was guilty. Also Read - 'If PM Modi Doesn't Allow...': Trump Warns India of 'Retaliation' if US Order of Hydroxychloroquine Not Released
The vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee was set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley announced as the panel gaveled to order. Also Read - Blood-Related Therapy New Hope For COVID-19 Patients? US Investigates After Positive Results From China
Emotions running high, several Democratic senators walked out for a time in protest. Also Read - US Sets New Global Record With 1,480 Deaths in 24 Hours; President Trump Recommends Face Masks
Moments before the panel convened, Arizona Sen Jeff Flake of Arizona, a member of the committee, announced he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
He said the judge was entitled to the “presumption of innocence … absent corroborating evidence.” “While some may argue that a different standard should apply regarding the Senate’s advice and consent responsibilities, I believe that the Constitution’s provisions of fairness and due process apply here as well,” Flake said.
“I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.” The maneuvering followed an emotional day of testimony from both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford that exposed divisions over justice, fairness and who should be believed. Coming weeks before the midterm elections, it ensured the debate would play into the fight for control of Congress.
As lawmakers wrangled over process, protesters swarmed Capitol Hill. Two women cornered Flake in an elevator and, through tears, implored him to change his mind.
Attention turned to a handful of undecided moderates in both parties, most notably Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two Republicans who have been willing to buck party leaders before. Neither has said whether she would vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
Democrats running in tough re-election races this fall also faced pressure over their decisions.
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, who is faces a difficult contest in a swing state, announced he was voting against Kavanaugh, as did Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who is seeking re-election in a state President Donald Trump won handily in 2016.
“The allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh are disturbing and credible,” Donnelly said in a statement.
“In the interest of getting as much information as possible, I believe the allegations should be investigated by the FBI.” Democrats are also pushing to subpoena Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh who Ford testified was a witness to the alleged assault.
Judge has said he does not recall the incident, and a Democratic motion to subpoena him was blocked by Republicans in a vote. Several Democrats, including Kamala Harris of California and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, walked out of the hearing room.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said it was as if Judge had “effectively nailed a do not disturb sign, and apparently the Republicans on this committee are satisfied.” Leahy said it’s not that Democrats are trying to delay the nomination ahead of the congressional elections as Republicans contend. “This is about doing our job,” he said.
Meanwhile, there were signs that Thursday’s remarkable testimony before the panel in which Kavanaugh angrily declared his innocence and Ford recounted the moment in which she says he attacked her had registered negatively with two organizations whose support Kavanaugh had earlier received.
The American Bar Association, which previously gave Kavanaugh its highest rating of “well qualified,” asked the Senate committee and the full Senate to delay their votes until the FBI could do a full background check on the assault claims something President Donald Trump has refused to order. Grassley, too, has refused.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed that Friday, telling reporters that Kavanaugh has already “been through six separate background investigations by the FBI.” Late Thursday, the magazine of the Jesuit religious order in the United States withdrew its endorsement of Kavanaugh, saying the nomination was no longer in the interests of the country and “should be withdrawn.” “If Senate Republicans proceed with his nomination, they will be prioritizing policy aims over a woman’s report of an assault,” the “America” editors wrote.
“Were he to be confirmed without this allegation being firmly disproved, it would hang over his future decisions on the Supreme Court for decades and further divide the country.” Kavanaugh has repeatedly cited his Roman Catholic faith and his years as a student at the Jesuit-run Georgetown Prep school in Maryland.
Meanwhile, former President George W. Bush has been advocating for Kavanaugh with wavering senators in recent days, according to a person familiar with Bush’s outreach who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
The White House said it was also engaging with wavering GOP senators, but provided few details.
Flake’s decision has been among the most watched, and he had told reporters it was “a tough call” as he left the Capitol late Thursday.
The Arizonan had been holed up with other key senators Collins, Murkowski, and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia after the daylong hearing in Collins’ hide-away office on the third floor in the Capitol.
At the private meeting of GOP senators late Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell led a round of applause for Grassley as well as Sen. Lindsey Graham after the South Carolina senator’s dramatic defense of Kavanaugh at the hearing. (AP) SMJ SMJ
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.