The first part of this title is the most important part. Republican Senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and could have been the deciding vote striking down Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. Instead, Flake voted to nominate Kavanaugh, where the vote will go to the Senate to finally confirm him to the Supreme Court, likely on Saturday. After giving up this only bit of leverage, Flake put out what was effectively a PR statement.
Jeff Flake wants a one week FBI investigation, but he attached no resolution formally asking for it, and as The Weekly Standard’s Hayley Byrd pointed out, McConnell has ignored Flake’s toothless requests before. Unless Flake has another Republican joining him in pledging to vote no without an FBI investigation (and even then, there are a couple Democrats who still might vote yes), he has literally zero leverage over this process. Flake can vote no and so long as McConnell gets every other Republican to vote yes, Vice President Mike Pence will break the tie and confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. There is no reason to take Jeff Flake at his word, because he has done performative nonsense like this before in order to be painted as some amorphous resistance hero (never forget that he came into the senate with the second half of the Tea Party wave in 2012).
Lisa Murkowski said she supports Flake’s motion, and so there is some pressure on McConnell here, but there are no pledges to vote no, just a request for a small investigation. This looks like senators trying to buy themselves some time while they poll the reaction to the last two days, and not like a principled stand. A principled stand would mean that Brett Kavanaugh is still stuck in committee, so we should all be skeptical that this is nothing more than a performative exercise to score PR points with people who value what congressmen say more than what they do.
If Flake earnestly believed that the senate could not confirm Kavanaugh without an FBI investigation (something the American Bar Association says needs to happen), he would have voted no to keep Kavanaugh in committee, demanding that he would only flip his vote to yes once an investigation occurred. That didn’t happen, and if you think that Donald Trump is going to initiate an FBI investigation into claims of sexual assault (how this process would formally have to go down), I have some swampland in Flake’s back yard in Arizona that I’d like to sell you.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.