Conway argued that the White House would not let the media do a “drive-by” on Kavanaugh, adding that the new standard for nominees would be to “vet them through high school.” She encouraged those on the call not to get “too rattled” by the allegations. The McConnell staffer promised the surrogates that Kavanaugh’s hearing on Thursday morning would continue as scheduled, with a full floor vote to take place either next Monday or Tuesday. A few hours after the call, McConnell himself said the vote would happen “in the near future.” Orrin Hatch, a Judiciary Committee member, confirmed to me in a statement that the hearing was still on.
The White House’s resolute stance encapsulates the broader Republican mind-set heading into Thursday, when Christine Blasey Ford will testify about the sexual-assault allegations she’s leveled against Kavanaugh, which he has denied. According to multiple sources in the House, Senate, and GOP congressional campaigns, Republicans now see their task of supporting Kavanaugh not only as principled—standing behind a man they believe is innocent—but also as political; Kavanaugh’s confirmation is a crucial metric of their chances in the midterm elections. If they don’t “plow ahead” and confirm Kavanaugh, their thinking goes, GOP voters will feel cheated, with little reason to turn out in November. “If Republicans cave to these lies,” one senior Senate GOP aide told me, “it will demoralize the base and cost them the Senate.”
Republicans’ offensive stance in the wake of Ramirez’s allegations represents a shift from last week, when Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley signaled his intention to hear Ford’s story before moving ahead with a vote. Several rounds of negotiations followed, even as White House officials decried the timing of Ford’s allegations and criticized Democrats for their “delay tactics.”
This time, the White House and Senate Republicans seem to be on the same page. Multiple Senate GOP sources told me that Ramirez’s allegations have prompted zero change in their thinking about moving ahead on Thursday. Much of the reason for that, they said, is procedural: As one top aide to a Judiciary Committee member told me, no official complaint has been lodged with the committee—that is, Ramirez may have told her story to the media, but, unlike Ford, she has not contacted the committee directly. An aide to a second Judiciary Committee member told me, “Republicans feel like it would be odd to stop processing the first allegation because there’s a second.”
The Kavanaugh confirmation process is getting even uglier.
Yet Republicans also fear that further delays will allow for more of what they describe as false allegations. “The more we let Dems delay,” the first Senate aide told me, “the more women get coached into remembering Kavanaugh assaulted them.” (There’s no public evidence that Ford or Ramirez was coached.)