Saturday, September 29, 2018

The week ahead will determine the fate of the Cavanaugh Court

Yes, you read that right. The nation teeters on the verge of the deciding vote in the Supreme Court by a nasty partisan hack. The additional investigation into Brett Cavanaugh’s background now to be performed by the FBI in the next week might well tip the scales one way or the other.

Yesterday (Friday, Sep. 28, 2018), the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Chuck Crassley voted to send Brett Cavanaugh’s SCOTUS nomination to the Senate Floor. But here is the important qualifier: the Senate vote will be delayed by a week in order to give the FBI time to reopen its background check on Cavanaugh and interview those witnesses and additional accusers. As I understand the reporting, McConnell has agreed to that delay and Trump has asked the FBI to do the additional investigation, albeit limited in “time and scope.” In essence, the Democratic senators on the committee got what they wanted albeit later than it should have been.

Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel.net makes the case for The record supports Christine Blasey Ford. AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona covers the same ground but adds updates and new developments from yesterday, as I noted above, in A disastrous hearing, but the GOP will ‘plow ahead’ with Kavanaugh confirmation (Updated).

So, rather than cover that same ground, I want to make a different observation. I’ve been critical of Sen. Jeff Flake in this blog and in a recent letter to the editor (GV News). I think I had a lot of justification given Flake’s history of castigating members of his own party and Trump - and then voting the straight Trumpian party line. I won’t recant - the history is what it is. But Flake’s action yesterday merits a lot of credit. Here is the NY Times reporting on the final moments leading up to his action, A Tumultuous 24 Hours: How Jeff Flake Delayed a Vote on Kavanaugh.

Mr. Flake’s face was grim as he arrived in the committee room and took his seat on the right flank of the dais.

Democrats made a motion to subpoena more witnesses to the sexual misconduct accusations, but that was defeated, 11 to 10, with Mr. Flake’s support. The senators began offering their statements. Republicans said they were encouraged to be moving Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination forward, to an expected vote early next week. Democrats assailed the process, again insisting on a one-week delay and an F.B.I. investigation.

Almost three hours passed before Mr. Flake — looking increasingly uncomfortable — and Mr. Coons slipped out of the hearing room to begin discussing a possible delay. Senators crowded around, and the arguments continued as Mr. Flake made his decision.

Quickly, he held a conference call with Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski to ensure that he still had their support and that they agreed to a one-week delay. They did.

Accepting a Delay

Mr. Flake returned to the committee room and announced his intention: He wanted a one-week delay for an investigation but said, “I will vote to advance this bill to the floor.”

Democrats were initially confused, and some objected. It took a few minutes for the reality to sink in: Mr. Flake had given the Republicans the majority they needed to advance Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. But with some help from his like-minded Republican colleagues from the previous night’s meeting, he also had the power to hold up a final vote until an F.B.I. inquiry could be conducted.

In a meeting Friday afternoon with members of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. McConnell vented. Make no mistake about it, he said, more accusations, false ones, will emerge while we wait on this. But in the end, he had to accept the delay.

So did Mr. Trump. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, posted a statement from the president to her Twitter feed at 4:56 p.m. Friday.

“I’ve ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file,” Mr. Trump said in the statement. He had been pushed into doing what he mused about 24 hours earlier.

“As the Senate has requested,” Mr. Trump said, “this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week.”

So given where we were yesterday around 10:30 AZ time, Jeff Flake did the right thing at the right time. Now it is up to us to do two more things. (1) Thank Flake! (2) Write and call and keep the pressure on those Senators who remain (officially) undecided. According to the Washington Post they are:
Heitkamp D-N.D.
Manchin III D-W.Va.
Collins R-Maine
Flake R-Ariz.
Murkowski R-Alaska
“If two of them vote for it, the nomination would likely pass.”

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