Following an explosive and, at times, highly emotional day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, all eyes turned to several key swing-vote senators who remained outwardly undecided on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s fate late Thursday.
After the hearing, moderate Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowksi, R-Alaska, as well as Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., huddled to discuss the nomination, Fox News confirmed.
They talked for approximately 30 minutes before a GOP Conference meeting Thursday evening ahead of Friday’s planned Judiciary Committee vote on whether to recommend Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the full Senate.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Fox News after the conference meeting that followed the hearing, “I think we’re going to go ahead. I worry about every one of these votes.”
There were indications late Thursday that key senators remained undecided.
“There have been no decisions,” Manchin reportedly said outside the hearing room. “There are some concerns that people have, and we’re going to try to close the loop.”
After hours of testimony from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her more than three decades ago, Manchin said “both witnesess were credible,” according to CNN.
Fox News has learned that Republicans’ tentative plan is to hold a final confirmation vote on Kavanaugh before the full Senate sometime next week.
On Thursday morning, Collins voiced reservations about moving forward on Kavanaugh’s confirmation without issuing a subpoena to his friend Mark Judge, who Ford claimed was in the room when he allegedly assaulted her in the 1980s.
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace.”
Murkowksi was photographed huddling with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Capitol Hill earlier in the day, sparking a flurry of speculation on social media.
Collins and Murkowski are not on the Judiciary Committee, so they will not participate in the planned vote Friday morning.
Flake, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, didn’t ask Kavanaugh any questions during the hearing. Instead, he opted to give a general statement without committing firmly one way or the other on his nomination. Flake previously had insisted that Ford be allowed to testify before an up-or-down vote on Kavanaugh.
In an apparent effort to appeal to senators on the fence, as well as to clear his name and unload on what he described as a deeply unfair and partisan process, Kavanaugh abandoned much of his prepared remarks to blast the proceedings as a “disgrace” and a “circus,” and later sparred with Democratic senators. The hearing ended Thursday evening after eight hours worth of testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh.
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he told the committee. “The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced advise and consent with search and destroy.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also let loose on his Democratic colleagues during the proceedings, which he called a “sham” hearing to probe sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, in a display that earned him praise from the White House and scorn from the left.
Graham alleged the Democrats’ handling was all about politics.
“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” a visibily angry Graham said from the dais while pointing at Democratic senators. “And if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy.”
Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Alex Pappas and Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.