Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) gave a little performance on the Senate floor last night. As Sasse and his colleagues waited to receive the FBI’s report on its investigation into the sexual assault claims made against Brett Kavanaugh, the Republican from Nebraska took to the podium to talk about how friends of his have been raped, how the #MeToo movement is “a good thing” and how President Trump’s mockery of Christine Blasey Ford earlier this week was unacceptable. “We all know that the president cannot lead us through this time,” Sasse said. Despite all the bluster, Sasse has never been considered anything but a reliable vote to confirm Kavanaugh, and he concluded his speech on Wednesday by arguing that someone can still care about all the important stuff he just got emotional about and still vote for Kavanaugh.
“I’m here to talk tonight about the false choice that is being repeated hour after hour after hour on television,” Sasse said, “that [with] this confirmation vote about one vacant seat on the Supreme Court we are somehow going to be making a giant binary choice about the much broader issue of whether we do or don’t care about women. That is simply not true. That is not what we are doing this weekend.”
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) October 4, 2018
Normally, Sasse would be right; it can be dangerous to break things down into black-and-white terms. This isn’t one of those instances. Ford proved an immensely credible and compelling witness. Sasse even made a point to descend from his perch to shake her hand after her testimony last Thursday. Another Kavanaugh accuser, Deborah Ramirez, has had her story independently corroborated by numerous acquaintances. Countless people who knew Kavanaugh in high school and college have come forward to describe him as a belligerent drunk who often behaved inappropriately toward women. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that he has lied under oath repeatedly and about a wide array of issues, and 1,000 law professors signed a letter stating that Kavanaugh’s petulant, partisan performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was “disqualifying for any court,” much less the Supreme Court.
A vote is a vote, and as inconvenient as it may be for Sasse’s image, saying yes to Kavanaugh is indeed a direct rebuke of women. It is a binary choice. He can’t have it both ways. It’s why so many people rolled their eyes at his hollow display of self-righteousness Wednesday night. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) even tweeted about it as Sasse was bloviating.
How you vote is the main thing.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) October 4, 2018
Sasse’s speech brings to mind a similar appeal given by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) last week. Like Sasse, Flake stood up before the Senate and spoke of the need to listen to women. Also like Sasse, there was probably never any doubt in Flake’s mind that he would be voting to confirm Kavanaugh, regardless of how Ford and Kavanaugh came across during their upcoming testimony. Flake bought himself some good press by calling for an FBI investigation, but, as expected, that investigation appears to have been extremely limited and, as expected, we’re right back where we started, only now Republicans like Flake and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have a little more cover to vote along party lines.
Sen. Collins says "it appears to be a very thorough investigation." She plans to go back and read the full report later
— Jeremy Herb (@jeremyherb) October 4, 2018
Jeff Flake tells reporters: “We’ve seen no additional corroborating information”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 4, 2018
It isn’t just Republicans, either. While over the past few weeks most red-state Democrats have gravitated toward voting no on Kavanaugh, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is still undecided. He’s in the midst of a reelection campaign and wants to ensure he can ward off Patrick Morrissey, the Republican vying for his seat. According to Politico, Manchin is leaning toward confirming Kavanaugh, but he doesn’t want to be the deciding vote, lest he be crucified by his own party. The only other Democrat to not publicly state a position is Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). Guess what? She’s up for reelection in a red state this year, too. In other words, the calculus of these undecided senators appears purely political. This is no surprise, but in the case of Kavanaugh, a blatant partisan operative who is clearly unfit to serve on the court and whose presence there will be a threat to women’s reproductive freedom for generations, it’s a little more devastating than usual.
Nevertheless, women of America, know that Ben Sasse is with you. He just hopes you can understand that he has an election to worry about in two years.