Now that the FBI has concluded its supplemental background investigation into allegations by several women that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted them after drinking heavily, senators are beginning to position themselves for the inevitable cloture vote tomorrow and a final vote of the full Senate this weekend. All day today and into tonight, the senators on the Judiciary Committee, and other senators who so desire to, are reviewing the supplemental FBI report in a closed, secured room. (Even staff are excluded, reportedly – which is probably a good thing after a former Democratic Senate staffer was charged with “doxxing” the home addresses and cell number of at least one Republican senator.)
Democratic leaders are calling the investigation “incomplete” and “a rush job.” But early signals by key Republican votes suggest that GOP senators may be lining up to give Kavanaugh final approval. Arizona Republican Judiciary Committee member Jeff Flake, whose eleventh-hour vacillation over Kavanaugh’s nomination ensured Republicans would agree to a further FBI investigation, announced, “We’ve seen no additional corroborating information.” And Maine Senator Susan Collins said, “it appears to be a very thorough investigation,” expressing her refusal to adopt the Democratic messaging – a hopeful sign for Kavanaugh’s supporters.
Republicans will need at least Flake and Collins if Kavanaugh’s nomination is to succeed because each of the fence-sitting Democrats has now said he or she will vote against him, save Joe Manchin of West Virginia – including very recently Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. Heitkamp announced out this afternoon that she will oppose Kavanaugh because “I believe Dr. Ford,” and she explained that she wanted to send the right message to women in her situation. If all Democrats vote against the nominee, Republicans can still afford to lose one member of their own ranks and see Kavanaugh confirmed, since Vice President Mike Pence will have the tie-breaking vote in the event of a 50-50 split. In view of that fact, Senator Collins’ comment augurs positively for the nomination.