Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh would proceed whether or not Kavanaugh's accuser — Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — agreed to testify on Monday.
He also rejected demands made by Kavanaugh's accuser to wait until after a further FBI investigation, stating that the FBI had already updated Kavanaugh's background check and would not be performing any further work to assess the credibility of Ford's accusations.
What are the details?
California professor Christine Blasey Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during a party when they were both in high school. On Monday, Grassley asked Ford to appear before the committee next week in order to testify regarding these allegations.
Ford's lawyers responded on Tuesday, saying that she would not testify publicly until a “full investigation by law enforcement officials” had been completed.
On Wednesday, Grassley said in an official letter to Ford's lawyers that the Kavanaugh hearings would begin again on Sept. 25 with or without Ford's testimony.
I have invited Dr. Ford to testify regarding her allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. And in recognition of how difficult it can be to discuss allegations of this kind in public, I have also offered her the choice of testifying in either a public or closed session of the hearing. In response to my invitation, however, you wrote yesterday that "an FBI investigation of the incident should be the first step in addressing her allegations."
Grassley added that his staff would be willing to speak to Ford “at a time and place convenient to her.” A spokesman for the judiciary committee told The Hill that Grassley would be willing to send staff members to California to hear from Ford in person.
We’re going to continue to try to hear from Dr. Ford in any format she's comfortable w open session/closed session/private staff interviews/public staff interviews bc her information is very important. We’ve provided an opportunity for her to put her story fwd on Monday 2/4
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 19, 2018
While Ford's lawyers and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have demanded that the hearing be postponed until an FBI investigation can be completed, the Department of Justice has stated that the FBI does not have jurisdiction in this matter.
Even critics of Kavanaugh seemed to agree that the hearings needed to move forward. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has been outspoken in her skepticism of Kavanaugh, tweeted on Wednesday that she hoped Ford would accept Grassley's invitation to testify.
I hope that Dr. Ford will reconsider and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. It is my understanding that the Committee has offered to hold either a public or a private session, whichever would make her more comfortable.
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) September 19, 2018
While Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) had originally said that the hearing needed to be postponed until Ford's testimony could be heard, on Tuesday he said that if Ford refused to testify on Monday, the Senate should move forward with their vote.
How likely is it that Kavanaugh will be confirmed?
Only 51 votes are needed to confirm a Supreme Court nominee, and Republicans currently hold exactly that many seats in the Senate. Even if Sen. Collins changes her vote to a "no," Vice President Mike Pence could still cast the deciding vote in his role as president of the Senate.
However, if a single additional Republican senator, such as Flake or Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), decide to vote against Kavanaugh, his confirmation would rely on someone from outside the Republican Party.
In U.S. history, only 12 of a total 163 Supreme Court nominees have been rejected by the U.S. Senate. The latest example of this was Robert Bork in 1987.