Senate GOP agrees to one-week delay on Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation to allow for FBI probe

Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the second day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. 

Zach Gibson | Getty Images
Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the second day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. 

Senate Republicans have agreed to delay a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation for one week to allow for an FBI probe into allegations of sexual misconduct against the judge, according to a statement issued by the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday.

The committee will request that the White House “instruct the FBI to conduct a supplemental FBI background investigation with respect to” Kavanaugh’s nomination, the statement said.

“The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today,” it read.

The delay means that a floor vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which had been expected for Tuesday, could now happen three days later. Senators will move forward with a procedural vote expected Saturday.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and a number of other Republicans huddled in McConnell’s office Friday afternoon to discuss how to proceed on the confirmation following a call from a number of key senators to delay the vote.

The agreement reached Friday will hand over to the White House a final decision on whether the FBI conducts an investigation. President Donald Trump has signaled his willingness to go along with GOP leaders.

The president, who has stood by his nominee amid a turbulent confirmation process roiled by accusations of sexual abuse, said Friday that he would be “totally reliant” on Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

“I’m going to rely on all of the people including Senator Grassley, who’s doing a very good job,” Trump said.

The Judiciary Committee voted on Friday along party lines to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate, but a dramatic last-minute speech from retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., thrust the process into chaos.

Flake, who earlier announced that he would vote “yes” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, said at the committee meeting that his floor vote would be contingent on an FBI probe. A number of other senators considered to be swing votes soon followed suit, with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin signaling their support for Flake’s proposal almost immediately.

The delay follows an explosive, nearly nine-hour day of testimony before the Judiciary Committee Thursday from Kavanaugh and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford. Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high school gathering that took place more than three decades ago. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the accusation.

The prospect of an FBI probe was contentiously debated at the hearing Thursday. The two top members of the committee sparred over the utility of such an inquiry — as well as if it could even be conducted.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, said an FBI probe would be “the best way to ensure a fair process to both Kavanaugh and Ford.”

In contrast, Grassley called Democratic demands for the FBI to get involved “consistent with their stated desires to obstruct the Kavanaugh nomination by any means necessary,” and said he had “no authority to force an executive branch agency to conduct an investigation into a matter it considers to be closed.”

Ford and Kavanaugh themselves were split on whether the FBI should investigate. While Ford has pushed for the bureau to look into her claims, Kavanaugh has pushed back. He said he wants to do whatever the Judiciary Committee thinks is best.

Kavanaugh responded emotionally Thursday when Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., pointed out to him that the FBI could conclude an inquiry in a matter of days.

“Senator, do you know how long the last 10 days have been for us?” Kavanaugh said. “Every day is like an eternity.”

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