Brett Kavanaugh filibuster vote set for Friday
The FBI was sending its new background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the Senate late Wednesday, and Republicans moved quickly to set up a first floor test, a vote to end a Democratic filibuster, for Friday.
FBI agents had been sent back to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file after sexual misconduct allegations were lodged last month against him, stemming from high school and college parties more than 30 years ago.
Senators will look over the new information beginning Thursday though in keeping with Senate rules, there are no plans for a public release of the findings.
“This evening, the Senate will receive the results of the FBI’s supplemental background investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said as he took the chamber floor just before 10 p.m. Wednesday. “This is now the seventh time the FBI has looked into Judge Kavanaugh’s background. And this information comes on top of what has already been one of the most thorough, most exhaustive Senate reviews of any Supreme Court nominee in our nation’s history.”
The Senate has been debating Judge Kavanaugh on the floor since late Friday though GOP leaders, bowing to the wishes of several key Republicans, had held off on a final vote until the FBI report was completed.
With it nearly in hand, Mr. McConnell filed a motion to limit the debate, setting up a filibuster vote on Friday.
If that vote is successful, it would trigger up to 30 hours of additional debate and then a final confirmation vote, which could put Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court before the next cases are heard Monday.
But that depends on how senators react to what the FBI found in its new review and whether Democrats have any other obstacles they can erect in a fight that has already upended all standards of decorum, with both sides accusing the other of violating ethics, Senate rules, the law and even the Constitution.
On Wednesday U.S. Capitol Police announced charges against Jackson A. Cosko, accusing him of stealing and releasing senators’ personal information what’s known on the internet as “doxxing.”
Mr. Cosko is a Democratic operative who’s worked for several congressional offices over the years, including most recently for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a vocal critic of Judge Kavanaugh’s.
Police officers have also taken to shadowing senators as the walk the hallways in the Capitol’s office buildings to prevent nasty encounters with protesters hoping to pressure them into opposing Judge Kavanaugh.
It’s gotten so bad that earlier Wednesday Mr. McConnell took to the Senate floor to call the protesters bullies and vow not to let them sway the vote.
“We’ll not be intimidated by these people. There’s no chance in the world they’re going to scare us out of doing our duty,” the Kentucky Republican said.
It remains to be seen whether the FBI report will be enough to win over the three Republicans and two Democrats who have yet to announce a position on confirmation. Any combination of two of them, combined with the vice president’s tie-breaking vote, would be enough to put Judge Kavanaugh on the high court.
But Democratic leaders were already objecting to the scope of the FBI report, saying witnesses who should have been interviewed appeared to have been left out.
One major gap, they said, was Judge Kavanaugh’s chief accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who as of the afternoon had yet to speak to agents.
Ms. Blasey Ford was also withholding from senators key documents, including notes from her therapy sessions in 2012 and 2013 where she says she first publicly recalled the assault she says took place in 1982 at the hands of Judge Kavanaugh, and the full report from the polygraph test she arranged to take in August, before going public with her allegation.
Her lawyers rebuffed a request from the Judiciary Committee to see those documents.
“Dr. Ford is prepared to provide those documents to the FBI when she is interviewed. We have not yet heard from the FBI about scheduling an interview with her,” the woman’s lawyers wrote to committee Chairman Chuck Grassley.
Mr. Grassley was nonplussed.
“The Constitution tasks the Senate, not the media or the FBI, with providing advice and consent for Supreme Court nominees,” he said, calling it “disappointing” that Ms. Blasey Ford showed documents to The Washington Post but has refused to provide them to lawmakers.
Also Wednesday, Democrats raised new objections, hinting that there was evidence of problems in previous background FBI checks for Judge Kavanaugh and demanding those be probed. Republicans dismissed that as “baseless innuendo.”
Those sorts of exchanges have only deepened the public’s divide over Judge Kavanaugh, with Democrats cheering the protesters.
“The energy we saw around Kavanaugh last week was truly inspiring. We must sustain that level of pressure heading into the fights ahead. Write, protest, and call, call, call. Too much is at stake,” Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat, tweeted Monday.
Mr. McConnell and other Republicans said things have gone too far.
“There’s been an increase in people screaming at you and as a result, we’ve gotten some additional help,” Sen. John Kennedy told The Washington Times. “It’s worse for Judiciary Committee members, but I know Senator Collins is having a lot of trouble she can hardly leave her home.”
Sen. Susan Collins is one of three Republicans still on the fence about Judge Kavanaugh.
The hallway in front of Ms. Collins’ Senate office was shut down briefly on Wednesday, sparking complaints from reporters who had been staking out the doorway.
According to NBC News, Ms. Collins was also seen leaving Capitol Hill in a police vehicle last week.
And it’s not just limited to Republicans. Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, has had to battle off protesters back home in his Charleston office.
A number of news outlets reported Tuesday the senator’s office had to call police after more than a dozen women staged a sit-in demanding he announce his opposition to Judge Kavanaugh.