With the House gone until after the midterm elections, and the threat of a government shutdown removed until December, the Senate has Washington to itself this week, with the debate over the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh playing out as the FBI completes a “supplemental” background investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against the nominee.
After last week’s blockbuster Senate Judiciary hearing featuring Kavanaugh and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, and a dramatic vote on Friday to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the floor, senators reached an agreement to delay a planned floor vote on the nomination to allow the FBI, acting under a directive from President Donald Trump, to complete the probe no later than Oct. 5.
“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,” the Senate Judiciary panel said in a statement Friday.
On the Senate floor Friday, and after a lengthy set of negotiations over next steps, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell began the formal process of considering Kavanaugh’s nomination, saying, “100 percent of the Republican Conference supports proceeding to the Kavanaugh nomination.”
“The full Senate will begin considering Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination today,” he said, although the procedural motion he referred to was simply to formally begin consideration while the chamber waits for the FBI to conclude its work.
The Senate then agreed by voice vote to make the nomination the pending business, and senators bracing for a weekend session were freed to go home.
Watch: Judiciary Holds Quick Kavanaugh Vote and Comes to ‘Gentlemen and Women’s Agreement’ for FBI Probe
Before the Senate turned to the Kavanaugh nomination, McConnell filed a cloture motion to limit debate on a House-Senate agreement on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, putting that legislation ahead of the judge in line for the floor schedule.
The turn of events happened because Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake said that while he would vote to advance Kavanaugh out of the Judiciary Committee, he would not feel comfortable moving it on the floor until the FBI had time to consider allegations against the circuit court judge.
He was joined by other senators key to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, another key GOP vote, said she agreed with the Judiciary panel’s move.
In a statement, Ford’s attorney Debra Katz thanked the senators pushing for the FBI query, but said that the bureau should not be subject to time limits.
“A thorough FBI investigation is critical to developing all the relevant facts. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford welcomes this step in the process, and appreciates the efforts of Senators Flake, Murkowski, Manchin and Collins — and all other senators who have supported an FBI investigation — to ensure it is completed before the Senate votes on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. No artificial limits as to time or scope should be imposed on this investigation,” Katz said.
Todd Ruger, Patrick Kelley and Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.