NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: U.S. Supreme vote could affect Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly’s re-election

Indiana’s Democratic senator, Joe Donnelly, may get a pass on a confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation Thursday in advance of a full vote in the Senate, but after an allegation of sexual assault came out of the blue Friday, thanks to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who knows what will transpire in what looked to be a shoo-in confirmation of a top-notch candidate to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy?

Why is this a potential pass for Donnelly? He’s one of the Democrats from states that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election who are up for re-election to the Senate in November. How he votes in a confirmation vote for Kavanaugh could affect whether he is re-elected. But the more his party can do to smear the conservative judge’s reputation, the more likely Donnelly is to be forgiven if he votes to deny him the Supreme Court job. And maybe it won’t even come to a full Senate vote.

“The allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh are serious and merit further review,” Donnelly stated Monday. “Given the nature of these allegations, and the number of outstanding questions, I believe the Judiciary Committee should hold off on Thursday’s scheduled vote.”

As The Associated Press pointed out Monday, Donnelly could conceivably benefit from the allegations if they anger suburban women, especially those who vote Republican. On the other hand, a Senate brawl over these allegations might energize the GOP’s base. “That threatens to override Donnelly’s carefully constructed pitch to voters,” AP wrote, “which is focused on bipartisanship, temperament, local issues and his own record in the Senate.”

After Donnelly’s call for a delay in the process, GOP leaders asked for private, staff telephone interviews of Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than 30 years ago when they were in high school. The allegation was made in a letter written by Ford that Feinstein kept in her hip pocket throughout the hearings and Friday released as her September Surprise (Subterfuge seems like a better word).

Republican aides spoke by phone Monday with Kavanaugh and tried to reach Ford, according to Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), but Democrats refused to participate. So here’s the latest on what’s next:

“To provide ample transparency, we will hold a public hearing Monday to give these recent allegations a full airing,” Grassley said in a written statement.

Because of the #MeToo movement, which has cost prominent men their jobs in government, entertainment and journalism, Monday’s hearing could be, as AP wrote, “a politically jarring prelude to the November elections for control of Congress.”

Feinstein decided to keep the allegations secret, even from other Democrats, during the hearings when Kavanaugh and witnesses could have been questioned. Now she has thrown a firebomb into the process that could unjustly destroy Kavanaugh’s nomination. But, then, wasn’t that her goal all along?