Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is seeing the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process quickly slipping out of his control, and so he’s doing the only thing he can: he’s bluffing. Even as Jeff Flake keeps pushing for a stronger FBI probe, and Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski keep backing him on it, McConnell has decided to confidently declare that a vote on Kavanaugh will be held this week no matter what. His own holdouts are all but laughing at him for it.
When the Associated Press caught up with Lisa Murkowski and asked her about McConnell’s vow to hold a vote this week, she said “He talked about a vote last week, too.” Susan Collins was standing next to her and said “Good answer.” This exchange is all we really need to know. Murkowski is calling out McConnell for having been bluffing last week, as a way of pointing out that he’s bluffing now.
We still have no way of knowing for sure how Collins and Murkowski will vote on Brett Kavanaugh. But if they were looking to find a way to vote “yes,” they’d be looking to do so as soon as possible. They both know that the longer this drags out, the uglier things will get for Kavanaugh, and the harder it’ll be for them to vote for him. Yet they keep supporting Jeff Flake each time he tries to make things uglier for Kavanaugh, and now they’re laughing off McConnell’s threat to force them to vote “yes” or “no” this week.
Mitch McConnell isn’t in charge of this process anymore and he knows it. His only remaining move is to try to bully the holdout voters into submission. These tactics have clearly not impressed Lisa Murkowski – and depending on precisely how you interpret her words, he may have pushed things to the point where he’s alienated her. In any case, she and Susan Collins are calling his bluff about holding a vote this week.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report