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Nicky Woolf @NickyWoolf
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I'm here at the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the committee is gearing up to vote to send Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Senate floor.
Democratic Sen. Blumenthal is speaking now. "The session yesterday was a job interview for a job like no other… and my belief is that this decision on how to vote, and I will vote no, is one of the most important decisions that I will make as a US senator"
Blumenthal, like Booker, is pointing out that Kavanaugh yesterday had said that four witnesses had denied Dr. Ford's account, where what they actually have said is that they do not remember / do not know.
Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham deep in conversation. Then Graham gets up and leaves the hearing room.
it was reported that Jeff Flake, who had previously indicated he was a Yes on Kavanaugh, left with Dem. Sen. Chris Coons earlier. Now other senators are leaving, inc Orrin Hatch. Seems like some behind-the-scenes drama.
Graham returns, with a grin on his face. "Let's vote."
All of the Democrats on the committee and several of the Republicans are still absent. A lot of journalists trying to read Lindsey Graham's face right now.
This is the moment Flake left with Coons
Feinstein and Leahy - Dems - are back. Others are returning to the committee room nw. Still no sign of Coons or Flake
Ranking Demcrat Feinstein and Chairman Grassley are deep in conversation.
A reminder of the stakes: this vote we're waiting for here today is to "report out" Kavanaugh from the Judiciary Committee. If that happens, he then goes before the full body of the Senate.
Feinstein and Grassley still deep in conversation
(apologies for my garbage camera)
The room is tense. The press corps are trying to lipread or see if they can figure out what's going on based on the expression on lindsey graham's face
Democrats seem happy. Republicans do not. But god only knows what this all means at this point
this is the tensest old-men-leaving-a-room-and-coming-back-again-in-small-groups situation I have EVER EXPERIENCED
We're seven minutes past the scheduled vote time now
"Are they trying to get Flake?" a reporter asks Graham. Graham shrugs
Now Graham getting up and leaving the room. Only Hatch and Grassley left. And Kennedy, sitting out on the end, who's been there the whole time.
Republicans just all came back in together - excapt Flake, who followed in between Dems Feinstein and Leahy
Now half of them have left again. You could run the video of this hearing in fast motion and put the Benny Hill theme over it
Grassley just gaveled a recess "We're going to take action on the motion before us, we need to get a quorum"
Almost everyone back now. Grassley is calling on Jeff Flake to speak now:
"I've been speaking with a number of people on the other side to make sure we do due diligence here and I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to a week in order to let the FBI do an investigation," Flake says
says he'll vote to proceed on Kavanaugh on that understanding, "so with that agreement I will vote to advance the bill to the floor."
Feinstein says that's not her understanding as Grassley tries to call the vote. ROLL CALL VOTE NOW.
11 YAYS 10 NAYS, Kavanaugh through the committee. But unclear what Flake's condition means.
There appears to be a motion for an FBI investigation now before the committee. "Senator Flake has made clear what it would take him to be happy with a final passage vote," but says it's up to McConnell.
Here's where things appear to be: seems like Flake is signalling that if McConnell rushes Kavanaugh through to the floor, he will vote no, killing the nomination.
"I will move it out of the committee but I will only be comfortable moving it on the floor when the FBI has done a full investigation," Flake says. That's key.
"There doesn't have to be an agreement. This is one senator, standing up," says Amy Klobuchar
This forces McConnell's hand. If he rushes the vote through on the Senate floor and Flake votes no, Kavanaugh is sunk. Flake is now holding all the cards. Him, and any other Republican senators who want to go down the same road.
"This country's being ripped apart here, and we've got to make sure we do due diligence," Flake says
And suddenly, Grassley adjourns.
Here's Flake:
"It's better than where we were before," Sen. Klobuchar tells reporters as they leave the chamber. "Let's leave it at that"
As far as I'm aware, if only Flake rebels then Pence, as VP, can break the tie and confirm Kavanaugh. But if only one other GOP senator joins Flake then they could sink the nomination.
Big question is: what does McConnell do now. There had been talk of a vote as soon as tomorrow; that now seems less likely.
But McConnell will now be carefully counting his caucus to see if anyone is likely to join Flake's little rebellion. Possibles: Joe Manchin, Susan Collins. Lisa Murkowski is indicating she is supporting Flake's position:
And @yashar is reporting that Collins is also with Flake
@yashar And more: on the one hand, if the FBI find nothing, that could lead to an easier confirmation vote in a week. But if they find stuff which contravenes his testimony yesterday, that could raise new problems.
@yashar .@MichaelAvenatti just confirmed to me that his client "will cooperate" with the FBI enquiry. Says they have not yet received any communication from the bureau.
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