Last month, both of Georgia’s Republican U.S. senators emphatically vowed to support Brett Kavanaugh, but new sexual assault allegations against the Supreme Court nominee have the duo taking a new look at the federal judge.
The seemingly safe confirmation of Kavanaugh plunged into uncertainty over the weekend after the Washington Post published an on-the-record account from Christine Blasey Ford. The California professor said a drunk Kavanaugh pinned her down and tried to remove her bathing suit at a high school party in the 1980s.
Soon thereafter, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced plans to postpone its Thursday vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination and to hold a public hearing with both Ford and Kavanaugh early next week. Still, senators continued to point fingers across the aisle about the timing of allegations and the logistics of the hearing.
Georgia U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue sought to dodge the spotlight on Monday and Tuesday as reporters swarmed lawmakers looking for comment. Both indicated they were willing to take the new information about Kavanaugh into account, even as Perdue hinted that he was still supportive of Trump’s second Supreme Court pick.
“He is certainly the kind of person we want on the Supreme Court based on the information I have right now,” Perdue said Tuesday.
He said in a subsequent interview that “sexual assault is a serious issue.”
“I’m not trying to demean that at all,” Perdue said. “I’m just saying I don’t have enough facts from the accuser in this situation for something that happened 35 years ago. If it was that serious, why wasn’t this brought out before?”
GOP senators have been eager to confirm Kavanaugh before the start of the court’s new term in early October, although several moderates said they were uncomfortable with many of the new allegations in the Post report.
Isakson was far more opaque about his thoughts on Kavanaugh, saying Monday he would not “discuss who, what, when or where with anybody until all the facts have come out.”
“You’ve got first class people up and down conducting (the Judiciary Committee hearing) and I think I’ll have everything I need to know to make a decision,” he said, adding that he is “not going to be closed-minded” about the new allegations.
“I’ll listen,” he said.
Kavanaugh has categorically denied Ford’s accusations, and President Donald Trump has stuck by his nominee, telling reporters Tuesday that the D.C. Court of Appeals judge was a “truly outstanding person” with an “unblemished record.” He blamed California Democrat Dianne Feinstein for waiting until the eleventh hour to disclose the allegations but refrained from criticizing Ford directly.
Democrats, who for months have painted Kavanaugh’s views as extreme, have urged lawmakers to pump the brakes on the judge’s confirmation. Party leaders have argued the GOP should take to heart the lessons of the #MeToo movement and Anita Hill’s role in Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation fight in the early 1990s.
“An all-male Judiciary committee dropped the ball in 1991, and we cannot allow an all-male Republican side of the Judiciary Committee do the same in 2018,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who was motivated to run for Senate in 1992 in part because of Hill’s treatment. “Women who come forward should be listened to, heard, and believed—and investigations and all appropriate actions should be taken once they have come forward to share their experiences.”
Neither Isakson nor Perdue are members of the Judiciary Committee so will not be playing a prominent role in Monday’s hearing.
Both have backed every Trump administration nominee to come up for a vote on the Senate floor, including Neil Gorsuch, the president’s first Supreme Court pick.
Insiders’ note: This post was ripped and expanded from today’s morning Jolt.
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