Just minutes after the end of the Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford hearing Thursday, with drama still hanging in the air (and on social media),Republican senators met behind closed doors to talk about what happens next. They emerged with a plan.
Here’s what we know.
This is what Republican leaders hope to do, several senators confirmed to the PBS NewsHour.
- Hold the Judiciary Committee vote on Kavanaugh on Friday morning.
- Begin the final Senate confirmation series at noon ET Saturday, with a procedural vote to start the debate on his nomination.
- This would lead to a final Kavanaugh confirmation vote — likely on Tuesday.
What about the accusations against Kavanaugh?
Following the hearing, Republicans supporting Kavanaugh spoke about Ford’s allegation of sexual assault and Kavanaugh’s performance in two ways: declaring the hearing a no-conclusions event, or expressing anger on Kavanaugh’s behalf, echoing Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s battlecry that the judge has been unfairly treated on a historic scale.
What about the other accusations, from Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick? Several Republican senators told the NewsHour that they do not see those as credible enough to postpone the hearings any further. Some also pointed out that the Judiciary Committee says neither woman has cooperated with their attempts to set up interviews.
This is the philosophical defense and gameplan for those who want to see Kavanaugh confirmed tor the Supreme Court by next week.
Democrats of course feel just as strongly that Kavanaugh’s appearance at the hearing raised more doubts about his temperament and whether he should be confirmed. They stress that Ford was an authentic-sounding and clearly cooperative witness.
And Democrats are similarly rooted in their belief that the other two accusers should be given the chance to speak to the committee.
Democrats, however, do not have the votes needed to change the scheduling of votes on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
But a few undecided Republicans do.
The key votes
As Republicans left the Capitol late Thursday night, none knew with certainty if the party has the 50 Senate votes needed to move the Kavanaugh nomination out of the committee and into the full Senate.
Four potentially decisive voters, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., all met together Thursday ahead of the full Republican meeting.
They apparently are undecided.
- Coming out of that small gathering, Manchin told reporters: “There were no decisions made on anything.” He added: “There are some concerns people had and we are going to try to close the loop.”
- As she left the Capitol, Collins confirmed to the NewsHour that there was no decision at that point from her.
Murkowski told others that she was going home to have some dinner and have a chance to think about the hearing.
If every Democrat votes no, Republicans can only lose the support of one of their members and still confirm Kavanaugh to the high court. Thus, if Murkowski, Collins and Manchin are all no votes, Kavanaugh could be sunk. Conversely, they could seal his elevation to the Supreme Court if all three vote yes.
What could happen?
A few scenarios are possible:
- The GOP’s ideal series of events: Republican leaders would like to gallop through a five-day steeplechase, starting with a successful committee vote Friday, procedural votes Saturday and Monday, and a full confirmation vote Tuesday. Republicans expressed wide confidence about the committee vote, but they need the undecided senators to announce ‘yes’ votes in the next day in order to make this timeline work.
- A short delay. The undecided senators could ask for a small delay, a day or two, in order to consider their vote more carefully and go back through the Thursday hearing.
- A longer delay. It is also possible the undecided senators ask their Republicans colleagues and President Donald Trump to trigger FBI investigations into the claims of Ford claims and the two other women.
- Withdrawal. At this point, this seems the least likely scenario, for a variety of reasons. High among them is Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to hold a vote on Kavanaugh, up or down. In addition, Republicans are highly motivated not to delay the vote further, because waiting longer would mean Kavanaugh would not be on the bench in time to hear some pivotal October cases.
When will we know?
Soon. Republicans should telegraph some of their intentions in the next two days, as we hear from Collins and Murkowski. If there is a problem with getting enough votes, it is not clear if McConnell is willing to pull the nomination.