After a tense meeting in which the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters in Washington, D.C., that the Senate will delay the full confirmation vote by a week while the FBI investigates allegations of sexual assault against the nominee.
The decision came hours after Cornyn, the Senate's number two Republican, and his Texas colleague Ted Cruz joined an 11-to-10 majority voting to advance the nomination out of the committee. The swing vote, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, asked for the FBI inquiry in return for his support. In a statement Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he would order the investigation.
"I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI ... do an investigation limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there," Flake said. "I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding. I’ve spoken to a few other members on my side of the aisle that may be supportive as well."
Friday's vote followed an emotional hearing on Thursday where Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor, testified that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a party when Kavanaugh was in high school. Kavanaugh aggressively denied those allegations, as well as several other allegations of sexual misconduct that have surfaced since.
After the Friday vote, Cornyn applauded Flake for allowing the process to move forward.
I'd like to "express my appreciation of Sen. Flake for allowing this process to move forward," Cornyn said immediately after the vote, adding that "there’s some difference of opinion among us as to what exactly the FBI investigation would consist of."
Cornyn has been firm in his support of Kavanaugh for days. On Friday, he blasted “the overt politicization of this process,” which he said created a “circus atmosphere” that has led the Senate into its darkest days since Sen. Joseph McCarthy ruined lives and careers in an ultimately discredited crusade to expose communists within the federal government.
“There has been a calculated effort to manipulate this process that is unfair to Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, and that is shameful,” Cornyn said.
The Senate still has 150 nominations pending on its calendar because Democrats have consistently worked to “obstruct, delay and deny” Trump appointees, including Kavanaugh, he said.
“I think the way Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have been treated is a scandal and it is cruel, reckless and indecent,” Cornyn said.
Cruz, meanwhile, was an uncharacteristically quiet voice on the matter during Thursday's historic hearing. The junior senator carefully measured his words and urged reserving judgment throughout the process, but had always been assumed to support Kavanaugh. Cruz is the only Republican on the committee who faces a difficult re-election battle in November.
When his turn to speak came before the vote Friday, Cruz tried to frame the hearing within the national political atmosphere.
“We’re living in a divided time. There is an enormous amount of anger. There’s rage, there’s hatred,” he said. “The politics of personal destruction that we have seen in recent days is Washington, D.C., at its ugliest.”
He accused Democrats of attempting to delay the nomination until after the November midterm elections in the hopes of keeping the Supreme Court seat unfilled until the 2020 presidential election.
Cruz praised Ford — “The testimony she gave yesterday was powerful. It was clear she was hurting and hurting mightily.” — and then said Kavanaugh had been dragged through the mud for weeks in an unprecedented way.
Patrick Svitek and Abby Livingston contributed reporting.