Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly announced Friday morning that he has decided to oppose Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“My job as a senator is to gather as much information as I can to make the best-informed decision” Donnelly said in a statement. “The allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh are disturbing and credible. In the interest of getting as much information as possible, I believe the allegations should be investigated by the FBI.
He added: “I have deep reservations about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to this lifetime position and, as I stated, we have been unable to get all the information necessary regarding this nomination, despite my best efforts. Only 113 people have ever served on the Supreme Court, and I believe that we must do our level best to protect its sanctity.”
Politicos have been waiting for weeks to find out where Donnelly—who's in a tight re-election race against former state Rep. Mike Braun—would come down on the Kavanaugh nomination.
After Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing—at which both Kavanaugh and one of his accusers testified—Indiana’s other U.S. senator, Republican Todd Young, said he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
Young said in the statement that he watched the hearing closely and he wasn't convinced that Kavanaugh was involved in the incident described by his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
"I believe Judge Kavanaugh was truthful under oath during today's hearing, and I trust the statements of the witnesses named by Dr. Ford who said under penalty of felony that they have no recollection of the alleged incident," Young said in the statement.
"After watching today's hearing, and conducting a thorough and objective review of his nomination, I remain convinced that Judge Kavanaugh is a man of integrity who will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court. I will be voting to confirm him."
In a statement issued midday Friday, Braun blasted Donnelly for opposing Kavanaugh.
“This entire process has been an embarrassment to our democracy as Hoosiers watched firsthand how Sen. Donnelly’s liberal colleagues used uncorroborated allegations to create a media circus designed to smear and destroy Judge Kavanaugh’s reputation," the statement said.
"Donnelly’s decision to oppose President Trump’s highly qualified nominee is a grave mistake, but proves he is more concerned with standing with his liberal Democrat leaders than standing for Hoosiers."
On Friday morning, Kavanaugh gained the support of a key Republican senator, virtually ensuring his nomination will advance to the full Senate a day after he adamantly denied the high-school-years sexual assault of Ford, who testified she was "100 percent" sure he was guilty.
The vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee was set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley announced as the panel gaveled to order. Emotions running high, several Democratic senators walked out for a time in protest.
Moments before the panel convened, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a member of the panel, announced he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, who he said 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," Flake said. "I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh."
As soon as the committee opened, Democrats offered a motion to subpoena Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh who Ford testified was a witness to the alleged assault. Judge has said he does not recall the incident, and the motion offered by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. was blocked by Republicans in a vote. Blumenthal and several other Democrats, including Kamala Harris of California and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, then walked out of the hearing room,
One Democrat not on the committee, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, added his name to the opposition. Nelson, who faces a tough re-election this fall in the swing state, announced Friday he was voting against Kavanaugh.
Meanwhile, there were signs that Thursday's remarkable testimony before the panel — in which Kavanaugh angrily declared his innocence and Ford calmly recounted the moment in which she says he attacked her—had registered negatively with two organizations whose support Kavanaugh had earlier received.
The American Bar Association, which previously gave Kavanaugh its highest rating of "well qualified," asked the Senate committee and the full Senate to delay their votes until the FBI could do a full background check on the assault claims—something President Donald Trump has refused to order. Grassley, too, has refused.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed that Friday, telling reporters that Kavanaugh has already "been through six separate background investigations by the FBI."
Late Thursday, the magazine of the Jesuit religious order in the United States withdrew its endorsement of Kavanaugh, saying the nomination was no longer in the interests of the country and "should be withdrawn."
"If Senate Republicans proceed with his nomination, they will be prioritizing policy aims over a woman's report of an assault," the "America" editors wrote. "Were he to be confirmed without this allegation being firmly disproved, it would hang over his future decisions on the Supreme Court for decades and further divide the country."
Kavanaugh has repeatedly cited his Roman Catholic faith and his years as a student at the Jesuit-run Georgetown Prep school in Maryland.
Meanwhile, former President George W. Bush has been advocating for Kavanaugh with wavering senators in recent days, according to a person familiar with Bush's outreach who wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
The White House said it was also engaging with wavering GOP senators, but provided few details. Trump is publicly standing by his nominee.
"His testimony was powerful, honest and riveting," he tweeted late Thursday. "The Senate must vote!"