Kavanaugh is short of votes, but fate hinges on upcoming testimony
Despite the charges against him, Judge Kavanaugh remains defiant and vows not to be intimidated into withdrawing his nomination.
When it comes to the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, remember one thing:
The math is the math is the math.
Nothing else matters.
Either the math works in favor of Kavanaugh or it doesn’t.
The Senate is divided between 51 Republicans and 49 senators who caucus with Democrats.
Forty-one Republicans have pledged their support to Kavanaugh. Ten GOPers remain undecided. They are Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; John Kennedy, R-La.; James Lankford, R-Okla.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
There are at least four Republican senators who are genuinely in play right now. Fox is told the number could be as high as seven Republicans. The four obvious ones on the fence are Collins, Corker, Flake and Murkowski.
So, Kavanaugh’s fate is far from clear.
“In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court,” said McConnell in a speech at the Values Voters Summit on Friday. “So my friends, keep the faith.”
By Monday, the Kentucky Republican tempered his pronouncement.
“Judge Kavanaugh will be voted on here on the Senate floor. Up or down, on the Senate floor, this fine nominee to the Supreme Court will receive a vote in this Senate in the near future,” said McConnell.
Up or down.
It’s unclear if Kavanaugh will have the votes.
“We’re in the Twilight Zone when it comes to Kavanaugh,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
That’s why the nomination is struggling. Kavanaugh refuses to withdraw. He appeared on Fox Monday night to dispute the allegations leveled against him by Christine Blasey Ford and others.
Know this: a nominee on the verge of sailing to confirmation doesn’t appear on national television with his wife to make his case.
So, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., is trying to salvage the nomination.
McConnell delivered a blistering speech on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. He upbraided Democrats over the methods to sink Kavanaugh and simultaneously rallied Republicans to the fore.
In addition, this may have been a signal by McConnell to President Trump that he’s going to the mat for the nominee.
After all, the Senate is in play this fall. The open seat on the High Court is a swing vote. If Kavanaugh stumbles, Republicans may struggle to fill the vacancy with a conservative voice.
Baseball clubs eliminated from the pennant race often mail it in over last few weeks of the season. Some Kavanaugh advocates fear that could be the case here. McConnell knows GOPers won’t have any chance if they don’t run through the base on every ground ball in an effort to rescue the nomination.
Moreover, forging ahead with a vote could help Republicans in the midterms. Holding a vote could be a tactic to force moderate Democratic senators facing competitive re-election bids from red states, to declare their position on Kavanaugh. No free passes. This approach was part of the GOP game plan with Kavanaugh from the start.
So why not stick to the playbook? Republicans might not install Kavanaugh on the High Court. But they can at least weaponize a roll call vote against Sens. Joe Manchin, D-WVa.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and a host of others in an effort to bolster Senate Republicans.
Fox spoke with multiple Republican senators Monday. All say they want to hear from Ford. But many senators confided they could in fact vote against Kavanaugh if they hear something alarming in Thursday’s testimony. By the same token, many Republican senators are worried about establishing a precedent which could upend someone’s career based on impossible-to-prove allegations.
Also, there is a chance that Democrats may overplay their hand on Kavanaugh. There is chatter on Capitol Hill that efforts to undermine Kavanaugh’s nomination could boomerang against the Democrats just before the election.
This is all white hot.
Considering the controversy involving Kavanaugh, most senators on Capitol Hill Monday would have preferred to have discussed the fate of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
[W]hile I am frightened, please know, my fear will not hold me back from testifying.- Christine Blasey Ford
It was possible until Monday afternoon that McConnell could yank Kavanaugh’s nomination off the floor if he lacked the votes for confirmation. In mid-July, the Senate was moments away from taking a voting on the nomination of Ryan Bounds for a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. But senators unearthed some racist writings by Bounds and discovered he held some controversial views.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is the only African American GOPer in the Senate. Scott met with Bounds and reported to McConnell that he couldn’t support the nomination. Bounds lacked the votes for confirmation.
McConnell abruptly cancelled the confirmation vote and President Trump withdrew the nomination.
It’s unlikely that situation will repeat itself.
So all eyes will focus on the Thursday hearing with Ford appearing first, followed by Kavanaugh.
In a letter to Grassley, Ford declared“while I am frightened, please know, my fear will not hold me back from testifying.” In a return missive to Ford, Grassley wrote in the margin “P.S.: I look forward to your testimony.”
Thursday’s forum won’t play out in in the commodious, TV-friendly hearing facility in the Hart Senate Office Building, constructed for major events such as this one. Instead, the Judiciary Committee will convene in a much smaller room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Keep in mind that in her letter to Grassley, Ford said she wants a hearing that won’t “become a media TV show.”
As for a committee vote, it’s not out of the question for the panel to announce there could be a committee vote on Kavanaugh later that day. But even if Grassley “notices” a committee vote for Thursday, he can delay the vote. Senators from both sides of the aisle need time to process what Kavanaugh and Ford said. That’s why a floor vote on Kavanaugh won’t unfold until next Tuesday at the earliest.
Does Kavanaugh have the votes? He’s short right now.
And win or lose, the math is the math is the math.