Dianne Feinstein explains why she cannot vote for Brett Kavanaugh after America's 'national moment' hearing

Exclusive: Veteran Democrat speaks as vote delayed by several hours 

Andrew Buncombe
Washington DC
Friday 28 September 2018 17:26
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Dianne Feinstein says cannot vote for Brett Kavanaugh amid ‘national moment’

The senior Democrat on the committee that will determine the fate of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, has said she will not vote for him because of his views on women’s rights, gun control and presidential authority.

Agreeing that the testimony of Mr Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexually assaulting her three decades ago, had been a “national moment”, Senator Dianne Feinstein said she was not concerned about Mr Kavanaugh’s qualifications, but rather his views about fundamental issues that could have a powerful and lasting impact on the country.

“It was broadcast nationally. That’s what made it a national moment,” the senator told The Independent as she prepared for the crucial vote that will determine the 53-year-old judge’s future. “It was an important nominee to the Supreme Court and one that could tip the balance on key issues, and that is a women’s right to control her own reproductive system, as well as gun issues…as well as presidential authorities.”

She added: “I think his qualifications are there. I don’t agree with may of his views, particularly what I just said I and can’t vote for him, and I will be a no vote.”

The committee is due to vote on Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday afternoon. It will then pass the issue up to the full senate for a confirmation vote.

Despite the nine-hours of testimony on Thursday from Mr Kavanaugh and one of at least three women who have accused him of sexual assault, it was unclear how much difference it make in terms of the votes of the 21 committee members poised to make an initial decision on the judge’s future.

With Republicans holding a 11-10 advantage on the committee, it had been assumed the nomination would go forward along party lines. The only possible doubt was over the intention of Republican senator Jeff Flake of Arizona who is not seeking re-election and is free to vote on his conscience. Addressing Mr Kavanaugh on Thursday, Mr Flake said he wanted to hear from Ms Ford.

Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court vote

“She came at great difficulty for her and offered compelling testimony. You’ve come and done the same,” he said. “I’m sorry for what’s happened to you and your family. I’m sorry for what has happened to hers. This is not a good process, but it’s all we’ve got.”

But on Friday, Mr Flake said he had decided to vote in favour of the judge and that he was “entitled to the presumption of innocence ... absent corroborating evidence”.

“While some may argue that a different standard should apply regarding the senate’s advice and consent responsibilities, I believe that the constitution’s provisions of fairness and due process apply here as well,” he said, according to the Associated Press, something that immediately caused the senator to be confronted by protesters. “I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

Meanwhile, there were signs the testimony before the panel – in which Mr Kavanaugh angrily declared his innocence and Ms Ford calmly recounted the moment in which she says he attacked her — had registered negatively with two organisations whose support Mr Kavanaugh had earlier received.

The American Bar Association, which previously gave Mr Kavanaugh its highest rating of “well qualified,” asked the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate to delay the vote until the FBI could do a full background check on the assault claims. Meanwhile, the magazine of the Jesuit religious order in the United States withdrew its endorsement of Mr Kavanaugh – a devout Catholic – saying the nomination was no longer in the interests of the country and “should be withdrawn”.

After Republican Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the committee, gaveled the special meeting in session, the committee voted along party lines to reject a Democratic motion to suspend proceedings until they had heard from Mark Judge, the teenage friend of Mr Kavanaugh who Ms Ford said was present in the bedroom when she said she was assaulted.

At least five Democrats walked out of the meeting after the committee moved to vote later today on Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination. Senators Richard Blumenthal, Kamala Harris, Sheldon Whitehouse and Mazie Hirono left the room as Mr Grassley was giving an opening statement and Patrick Leahy left a shortly later, CNN reported.

Ms Hirono of Hawaii told reporters she had stepped out “because it’s very clear that the Republicans will break every norm, every rule, to get this person on the Supreme Court”. She said Mr Kavanaugh would arrive with “a cloud” and would “weaken the court” as a result. “This has got to stop. So I walked out. I’m not going to participate in this charade anymore,” she said.

Ms Feinstein countered accusations that Democrats were trying to simply derail proceedings. “This was not about ensuring a fair process, this was about doing the bare minimum,” she said.

“Let’s be clear, Dr Ford asked for confidentiality. We all know that if I referred allegations to the FBI when she would not come forward, there would have been nothing to do,” she said.

She said Ms Ford’s allegations were referred to the FBI on September 12.

She said: “While the Republican strategy is no longer attack the victim, it is now ignore the victim.”

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