Republicans haven’t officially made the decision to press forward with federal judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, but they appear likely to have the votes to do so.
Three key GOP senators have fallen in line with the arguments put forward by their colleagues. They said that Christine Blasey Ford has been given a chance to share the story of her accusation against Kavanaugh in a hearing setting, and encouraged her to testify — even without the FBI investigation she says must come first.
“Republicans extended a hand in good faith,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was among the first senators to call for a pause in Kavanaugh’s confirmation when Ford came forward. “If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote.”
The first senator to issue such a call was Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Late Tuesday, he encouraged Ford to testify and noted that the GOP-controlled committee has offered her a private session.
“When Dr. Ford came forward, I said that her voice should be heard and asked the Judiciary Committee to delay its vote on Judge Kavanaugh. It did so,” Flake wrote on Twitter. “I now implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting. The committee should hear her voice.”
Flake doesn’t explicitly say that the committee should vote even if Ford still won’t testify without an FBI investigation, but CNN’s Jim Acosta reported that Flake agrees with Corker on that point.
And in perhaps the biggest development Wednesday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Ford should testify and suggested her options were sufficient.
Collins also notably echoed some of her GOP colleagues in criticizing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for not having discussed the matter with her Judiciary Committee colleagues. Feinstein’s decision to wait has been cast as an effort to politicize the process.
“I recognize the letter was an anonymous one, but it seems to me the way it was handled it was unfair to both the judge and professor, because it casts a cloud of doubt on both of them,” Collins told WVOM radio.
Collins also dismissed the need to have the FBI investigate before Ford testifies, as Ford has requested. “It seems to me what we should be doing is bringing these two individuals before the committee,” Collins said. “If we need additional help from the FBI, then the committee can ask for it.”
While Collins doesn’t explicitly say there should be a vote regardless of Ford’s participation, her decision to lean in on some key GOP talking points is crucial. More than anyone else, she has been the key GOP vote on Kavanaugh. Previously, that was because of her pro-abortion rights stance. Now, it’s because she’s a moderate and one of few female senators in a party confronting an allegation of sexual assault against its president’s nominee. Giving her blessing to the GOP’s approach here should allow pretty much everyone else to fall in line.
About the only other GOP senator whose support for moving forward is still in question is Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has been quieter. But her vote wouldn’t be necessary if every other of the 51 Republicans voted for Kavanaugh. (If Kavanaugh got 50 votes, Vice President Pence could break a tie.)
There’s a lot that still needs to play out, including Ford’s final decision on whether to testify. But the GOP is increasingly wagering that it can move forward even if she doesn’t.