What You Need to Know: Brett Kavanaugh Accuser Christine Blasey Ford

Brett Kavanaugh nomination: When is the hearing? What happens next?

U.S Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who said he sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school are scheduled to testify on Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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The attorneys for Christine Blassey Ford said their client has “committed to moving forward with an open hearing” where Ford is expected to testify about an alleged assault that took place more than 30 years ago.

>>New Yorker: Another woman alleges sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh during college years

Ford, 51, is a psychology researcher and professor at Palo Alto University in California. She claims that at a party in 1982 Kavanaugh locked the door to a room in a Maryland home where a party was being held, pinned her down on a bed and tried to remove her clothing.

>>Who is Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser? 

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

On Sunday, a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, 53, who attended Yale at the same time Kavanaugh did, said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when the two were students at Yale University.

Ramirez told The New Yorker that she was hesitant to come forward because of gaps in her memory she attributes to having been drunk when the alleged incident occurred. She said she took the last six days to make up her mind about coming forward with her story as Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh came to light.

The New Yorker has “not confirmed with other eyewitnesses that Kavanaugh was present at the party,” the story said. 

Kavanaugh and the White House have denied Ramirez’ allegations.

>>Who is Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court?

The hearing on Ford’s allegation is set for 10 a.m. Thursday, after which the Judicial Committee will schedule a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
What weight does a positive Senate Judiciary Committee recommendation for Kavanaugh carry? Quite a bit.

Here’s what could happen with Kavanaugh’s nomination:

The committee generally chooses one of three options when it comes to making a recommendation to the full Senate on a person’s nomination. The committee can recommend the nomination be approved, recommend the nomination be rejected or make no recommendation on the nomination.

Historically, the recommendation from the committee – whether to approve or reject a nominee – has overwhelmingly been accepted by the full Senate.
 

Since 1868, when the Senate’s rules were changed to require all nominations be referred to appropriate standing committees for recommendation, the Senate has: 

  • Confirmed 69 of 75 nominees to the Supreme Court who received a recommendation from the Judicial Committee that their nomination be approved.
  • Rejected five of seven nominees who received a recommendation that their nomination be rejected.

The committee could also decide to report the nomination to the Senate with no recommendation. Only four people have had their nominations reported to the Senate without recommendation – the latest being current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Three of those four, including Thomas, were confirmed by the Senate.

Finally, the committee could decide not to report a nomination at all, a rare occurrence. That action would prevent the full Senate from considering Kavanaugh’s nomination. However, a person whose nomination is not reported to the Senate can be re-nominated and again be considered for an appointment to the court.

Three of nine people whose nominations to the Supreme Court were not reported to the Senate have gone on to be re-nominated and their nominations confirmed – Stanley Matthews in 1881, John M. Harlan in 1954 and the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, in 2005. Roberts’ nomination as an associate justice was withdrawn and on the same day he was nominated to be the chief justice of the court. The first nomination as an associate justice was never reported to the Senate. The Judicial Committee reported a favorable recommendation to the Senate on Roberts’ second nomination, and Roberts was confirmed on a 78-22 vote.

What happens after the committee sends a recommendation to the full Senate?

Once the Senate receives a recommendation, debate on the nomination is scheduled. Both Republicans and Democrats have a chance to speak for or against the nominee.

Unlimited debate on Supreme Court nominees used to be allowed. To end debate, a cloture vote was taken. A cloture vote required three-fifths of the Senate (60 members) to vote to end debate. 

In April 2017, the rules of the Senate were changed to require a simple majority (51 votes) to end debate on a Supreme Court nomination.
 The process became known as the “nuclear option.”

When debate is ended, the full Senate will vote on the nomination. It will take a simple majority of the senators present – 51 if all the senators are there for the vote – to confirm a nominee.

Should there be a tie, the vice president will cast the deciding vote.

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