Key senators for Kavanaugh’s vote met in Capitol Office

Posted at 5:16 PM, Sep 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-27 20:08:46-04

Four key senators huddled privately in a Capitol office Thursday, just minutes after the Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped its day-long, blockbuster hearing of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia were spotted going into an office on the Capitol.

The three Republicans, who together are largely considered the deciding votes behind Kavanaugh nomination, are planning to attend the GOP conference meeting Thursday evening, according to an aide.

Republicans can advance Kavanaugh’s without any support from Democrats, but given their 51-49 seat majority in the chamber, Kavanaugh’s supporters can only lose one vote and still advance his nomination.

“We are still talking,” Manchin told CNN leaving the meeting. “There are no decisions on anything. There are some concerns that people have and we’re going to try to close the loop.”

Flake is a particularly unique position as he is the only member of this group who also sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is currently still scheduled to vote on whether to sign off on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday morning. GOP leaders had pushed for a full Senate vote on Tuesday, October 2.

The meeting of four key senators occurred less than hour after Kavanaugh finished his testimony before the Judiciary Committee, where he forcefully and passionately maintained his innocence and defiantly challenged Democratic senators who grilled him on multiple allegations of inappropriate behavior. On Thursday morning, that same committee heard from Ford who she said was “100%” certain Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers in the 1980s. In Kavanaugh’s testimony, he also said he was “100%” sure he did not sexual assault anyone.

Manchin is up for re-election this fall in a state Donald Trump won overwhelmingly and supported Trump’s last Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Manchin was among a handful of Democrats from red and purple states that Kavanaugh supporters were targeting as possible votes.

Collins and Murkowski have appeared to be the most outspoken Republican senators in seeking additional investigation into the allegations of inappropriate behavior that have surfaced against Kavanaugh in recent days.

When asked by reporters earlier this week whether there should be a full FBI investigation into the allegations, Murkowski responded, “It would sure clear up all the questions, wouldn’t it?”

Multiple sources familiar with a private Wednesday meeting — the night before the hearing — told CNN that Collins appeared unnerved by the latest allegations, citing in particular that a sworn statement from accuser Julie Swetnick sent to the panel, which carries with it the possibility of perjury for lying to Congress. At that Wednesday meeting of Republican chairmen, GOP leaders tried to reassure Collins, keenly aware of the critical role she plays.

Kavanaugh has vehemently and repeatedly denied all the allegations against him, including those of Ford and Swetnick.