In an interview published Saturday in The Atlanic, Flake said his refusal to issue a vote on Kavanaugh without a week-long "pause" for an FBI investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh was a last-ditch effort to overcome partisan battles that have plagued the confirmation process.
"The US Senate as an institution—we’re coming apart at the seams," the Arizona senator said. "There’s no currency, no market for reaching across the aisle. It just makes it so difficult."
Flake, a key Republican swing vote, was the center of attention on Friday as he conferred with longtime friend and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, as well as other Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, before making his surprise proposal.
After three women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, lawmakers disagreed along party lines about how to proceed. Republicans pushed to move forward with Kavanaugh's confirmation after hearing testimony from him and one of his accusers, the California professor Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. But Democrats said there had to be an FBI background check into the claims against Kavanaugh before a final confirmation vote. They also slammed Republicans for refusing to call other witnesses to testify.
"We can’t just have the committee acting like this," Flake said. "The majority and minority parties and their staffs just don’t work well together. There’s no trust. In the investigation, they can’t issue subpoenas like they should. It’s just falling apart."
Flake said he was overwhelmed by "the hearing itself, the aftermath of the hearing, watching pundits talk about it on cable TV, seeing the protesters outside, encountering them in the hall." He added that he found an ally in Coons.
"I told Chris, 'Our country's coming apart on this — and it can't,'" Flake said. "And he felt the same."
Sen. Jeff Flake
Sen. Jeff Flake
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) arrives for meeting about the Republican Tax Reform package on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Sen. Jeff Flake speaks with reporters ahead of votes on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) speaks with reporters about the Senate health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
American aid worker Alan Gross (2nd R) poses after his release with L-R, U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) at the airport in Havana, Cuba, December 17, 2014 in this photo tweeted by Rep. Van Hollen. The United States is planning to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba more than 50 years after they were severed, a major policy shift after decades of hostile ties with the communist-ruled island. REUTERS/Courtesy the office of Rep. Chris Van Hollen/Handout (CUBA - Tags: POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 5: Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., listens as President Donald Trump speaks before hosting a lunch with Senate Republicans in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Dec. 05, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 9: Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Jan. 09, 2018. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) looks on during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing concerning the authorizations for use of military force, October 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. As Mattis and Tillerson face questions about the administration's authority to use military force, Congress is still seeking more information about the deadly ambush that killed four U.S. troops in Niger. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill after announcing he will not seek re-election October 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Flake announced that he will leave the Senate after his term ends in 14 months. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and his wife Cheryl Flake leave the U.S. Capitol as they are trailed by reporters, October 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Flake announced that he will not be seeking re-election and he will leave the Senate after his term ends in 14 months. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 18: Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., listens as Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Full committee hearing on 'Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice' on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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Coons and Flake stepped into the spotlight Friday, both with impassioned appeals to the committee for an FBI investigation minutes after two women who say they are sexual assault survivors cornered Flake in an elevator and said that by voting in favor of Kavanaugh's confirmation, he was telling women that "assault doesn't matter."
Flake said their "poignant" accounts came after he and other lawmakers saw an emotional and widespread response to Ford's testimony Thursday. He added that all those things weighed on him leading up to the Friday afternoon vote.
Flake had released a statement that morning announcing that he would vote in favor of moving Kavanaugh's nomination out of committee and onto the Senate floor. He told The Atlantic that despite his call for an investigation, he still intended to support Kavanaugh, "unless they turn up something — and they might."