Three Republican senators have weighed in on postponing a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination until they hear more from the woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker both say the Senate Judiciary Committee should not vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination until they talk to his accuser, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the committee might have to consider delaying the vote, according to reporting by CNN and other news organizations.
When asked if the committee should consider delaying the vote this week, Murkowski told CNN, “Well, I think that might be something they might have to consider, at least having that discussion. This is not something that came up during the hearings. The hearings are now over, and if there is real substance to this, it demands a response. That may be something the committee needs to look into.”
Senate Republicans hold a 51-49 majority and cannot afford two or more Republicans voting against Kavanaugh’s nomination unless they pick up votes from Democrats. Alaska’s Murkowski and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins are two key GOP swing votes.
Collins told CNN on Sunday that she was “very surprised” by the now-public allegations, but did not know enough to make a judgment. She said she raised the allegations during a phone call with Kavanaugh on Friday before the accuser went public over the weekend.
Asked if she wanted the Senate Judiciary Committee to delay its planned vote this week on Kavanaugh’s nomination, Collins was noncommittal.
“I’m going to be talking with my colleagues, but I really don’t have anything to add at this point,” Collins said Sunday.
Flake sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and was the first Republican to join Democrats in urging a delay in the committee vote, planned for Thursday, until the panel has heard from Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, The Washington Post and Politico reported Sunday.
“I’ve made it clear that I’m not comfortable moving ahead with the vote on Thursday if we have not heard her side of the story or explored this further,” the Arizona senator told the Post.
Flake did not say to the Post what form the communication with Ford should take or how he plans to vote. He told Politico, “We need to hear from her. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.”
In a statement on Friday, Kavanaugh denied the reported allegations that while at a party during his time in high school, he pushed a woman, who then had not been publicly identified, into a room, locked the door to the room along with another male and tried to take off the woman’s clothes.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” his statement said.
In an interview with The New York Times on Sunday, Collins questioned how her Democratic colleagues handled the matter.
“What is puzzling to me is the Democrats, by not bringing this out earlier, after having had this information for more than six weeks, have managed to cast a cloud of doubt on both the professor and the judge,” she said. “If they believed Professor Ford, why didn’t they surface this information earlier so that he could be questioned about it? And if they didn’t believe her and chose to withhold the information, why did they decide at the 11th hour to release it? It is really not fair to either of them the way it is was handled.”
Corker also believes Kavanaugh’s accuser should be heard out before the Judiciary Committee votes on his nomination, the Tennessee senator’s spokesperson, Micah Johnson, said in a statement to CNN. Corker, however, does not sit on the panel.
Ford came forward publicly Sunday, detailing her allegations about the Supreme Court nominee in an interview with the Post. As her private outreach to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein became public over the past week, she decided to go ahead and speak out herself, Sunday’s report said.
In the Post’s report on Sunday, Ford alleged Kavanaugh “pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers” while trying to remove her clothes. “When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth,” but ultimately she was able to run from the room, the report added.
CNN’s Manu Raju, Ted Barrett, Greg Clary and Eli Watkins contributed to this report.