Vermont Delegation Calls for Delay in Kavanaugh Vote | Off Message

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Vermont Delegation Calls for Delay in Kavanaugh Vote


Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders
Updated at 5:48 p.m.

After a California professor alleged Sunday that Judge Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they both were teenagers, Vermont's congressional delegation urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to halt its consideration of his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

All three members — Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) — said the committee's planned Thursday vote on the nomination should be postponed until authorities could fully investigate the claims. In an interview with Seven Days on Monday afternoon, Leahy said that Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, should both testify before the committee, on which Leahy serves.

“She’s willing to testify under oath,” the senator said. “Let her!”

Details of the allegations have trickled out since the committee's ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), briefed fellow Democrats last Wednesday, but Blasey Ford’s identity was not known until Sunday, when she shared her story with the Washington Post. She said that at a party in suburban Maryland in the early 1980s, a drunken Kavanaugh had pinned her to a bed, groped her and attempted to remove her clothes.

“I find her allegations worth looking into professionally,” Leahy said in the interview. “I mean, she’s shown some very incredible courage even coming in here and we’re dealing with a nominee whose veracity is already an issue.”

Kavanaugh has denied that the incident occurred, and another man who Blasey Ford alleged participated in the assault has said he has no memory of it.

"This is a completely false allegation," Kavanaugh said Monday in a written statement. "I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday." He added that he was willing to address the allegation in front of the Senate committee.

On Sunday afternoon, Sanders and Welch released written statements calling for the panel to delay its vote.

"The allegation from Professor Christine Blasey Ford is a serious one that deserves a full investigation," Sanders said in his statement. "Neither the Judiciary Committee nor the full Senate should vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court until that takes place."

Moments later, Welch issued his statement. "I applaud Christine Blasey Ford for her courage in coming forward," he wrote. "These allegations are credible and deeply troubling. The Senate should immediately pause the confirmation process and insist upon a thorough investigation by the FBI. In the meantime, I hope Ms. Blasey Ford receives the respect and dignity to which she is entitled.”

Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced last Thursday in the Washington Post that he would vote against Kavanaugh's confirmation. He was asked about the allegations Friday in an interview with C-SPAN — before Blasey Ford went public with her account — and declined to directly address them.
"Any issues that have come up have been turned over to the people that do the background investigations and we'll see what they come up with," Leahy said at the time.

Asked whether he agreed with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that the committee should delay its vote pending an investigation, Leahy said, "That would make sense. Another week or two — what difference would it make? We're talking about a lifetime appointment. Two weeks? Three weeks? I think the American people, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, are going to face the consequences of who goes on the Supreme Court. Let the investigation get done."

Leahy did not weigh in on the matter again until late Monday morning, when he joined all of his fellow Democrats on the Judiciary Committee in ordering its chair, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), to postpone the vote so that the Federal Bureau of Investigation could investigate.

“We cannot brush aside these extraordinarily serious allegations in an unseemly rush to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to a lifetime seat,” Leahy said in a separate statement issued later Monday morning.

In the interview with Seven Days, Leahy said he learned of Blasey Ford’s allegations last week, when he was pulled off the floor of the Senate during a debate over a trio of appropriations bills. While Republican senators and some Democrats have criticized Feinstein for keeping quiet about the claims until last week, Leahy said he would not “second-guess” his successor.

“She is a person of integrity,” Leahy said of Feinstein. “She, I think, saw a witness that at first asked to be kept anonymous. Now [Feinstein has] talked to [Blasey Ford] and got her to agree to come forward publicly. I think that’s a pretty good step forward.”

Leahy dismissed Republican complaints that the information was coming to light near the end of the confirmation process, arguing that they had rushed the process and failed to turn over records of Kavanaugh’s government service.

“No, because the last minute is the accelerated time they set,” Leahy said. “They can’t say this is the last minute when they jammed this thing through and asked for a vote long before all the information is in.”

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