The impassioned statements from GOP senators on the panel—along with a cheering tweet from President Trump—were a signal that Kavanaugh had sustained support from most of the party’s caucus. And when Flake, the lone undecided senator on the committee, announced that he would vote for Kavanaugh, the outcome seemed to be a formality.
“I wish that I could express the confidence that some of my colleagues have conveyed about what either did or did not happen in the early 1980s, but I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty,” Flake said in a statement.
On his way into the committee meeting, sexual-assault survivors confronted Flake in an elevator. “I was sexually assaulted,” one woman tearfully told him in a scene captured live on CNN. “You’re telling all women in America that they don’t matter.”
The women held open the doors of the elevator, as a visibly uncomfortable Flake listened but did not maintain eye contact. “Thank you,” he said several times.
Inside the room, Democrats protested the swift move to a vote, with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut submitting a motion for the committee to subpoena Judge. On a party-line vote, the Republicans rejected Blumenthal’s request and moments later approved Chairman Charles Grassley’s motion to set the final vote for 1:30 p.m. “I strongly object. This is ridiculous,” Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said.
Nevertheless, the motion carried, and the vote was scheduled.
Read Adam Serwer on what Mark Judge’s absence reveals
In the hours that followed, Republicans and Democrats on the committee took turns delivering lengthy speeches explaining their votes for or against Kavanaugh. Nearly all of them lamented a process the committee itself drove. “In my judgment there were, there were no winners in this room yesterday. None. All I saw were two people, two human beings in pain,” GOP Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana said. Republicans largely offered sympathy to Ford and said they believed she was sincere in her belief of what happened, but that they did not think Kavanaugh was involved.
Democrats lambasted the process from nearly every conceivable angle. They denounced Republicans for trying to give Kavanaugh a lifetime appointment without a full investigation of the allegations against him; they demanded that Judge be called to testify; they accused Republicans of ignoring victims of sexual assault; they assailed Kavanaugh’s partisan outburst and his behavior toward the committee on Thursday; and they hailed Ford and said they believed her.
Several of them walked out of the meeting at various points. “Tonight I will pray for our nation,” Coons said. “The burden on this committee was to address, investigate, and resolve reasonable doubts, and credible allegations against the nominee before them. And by that test this committee has failed.”