BISMARCK - North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, considered a swing vote to potentially confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, said she remained undecided Friday, Sept. 28, a day after an extraordinary hearing examining sexual assault allegations against the nominee.
Heitkamp, who’s facing a tough re-election challenge from Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, said she agreed with Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s request for an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh before a final vote. President Donald Trump later said he ordered the FBI to complete a limited “supplemental investigation” in less than a week.
Before the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Kavanaugh on Friday, Heitkamp said in an interview she was in “the final stages” of making a decision.
“This isn’t an easy decision. And honestly, I don’t think it should be easy for anyone,” the Democratic senator said.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., reaffirmed his support for Kavanaugh after Thursday’s hearing, arguing “the facts do not support that Judge Kavanaugh was involved” in the alleged assault and citing “his lifetime record of achievement.” On Friday, Hoeven said the new inquiry will come on top of six FBI investigations that Kavanaugh has already undergone.
“It appears that this is necessary to secure enough votes for his confirmation, but it should be done expeditiously so that we can complete the confirmation process in a fair and orderly way,” he said in an emailed statement.
In a statement issued Thursday evening, Cramer said he would review the Senate Judiciary Committee’s work. A campaign spokesman didn’t return messages Friday.
Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor, has said a drunken Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s while they were both in high school by pinning her to a bed, groping and grinding against her, attempting to take off her clothes and putting his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She said the details of the incident have “haunted” her.
In a defiant opening statement Thursday, Kavanaugh denied Ford’s allegations and others that have come up in recent days and decried his confirmation process as a partisan “circus.” He said he would not withdraw.
Heitkamp said Ford was “believable but we have the strong denials by Kavanaugh.”
“We’re going to have to weigh the credibility of each one of those statements,” she said.
Heitkamp was one of three Senate Democrats to support Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court pick.
The accusations against Kavanaugh have shaken up an already hotly contested race between Heitkamp and Cramer. Cramer and conservative groups have tried to pressure Heitkamp to support Kavanaugh as she seeks re-election in a red state Trump won easily, while about a dozen people stood outside Heitkamp's Fargo campaign office Friday to urge her to vote against the nominee.
In radio and TV interviews in recent days, Cramer dismissed Ford’s accusations as “absurd” and questioned whether the claims, even if true, should be enough to disqualify Kavanaugh from the country’s highest court. But he acknowledged that it would be disqualifying if he was lying about the incident.
Democrats have repeatedly criticized Cramer’s comments. Heitkamp called them “disturbing.”
Cramer announced his support for Kavanaugh the night Trump announced the nominee in July. Heitkamp hasn’t said how she would vote on Kavanaugh, saying she needed to watch his confirmation hearings before reaching a decision.