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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee joined the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday in recommending Brett Kavanaugh for confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
During the meeting, Hatch said it's time to stop "new smears" against Kavanaugh and hold the committee vote.
"Frankly, we've had enough time on this to choke a horse," the Utah Republican said.
As expected, the 11-10 vote broke along party lines. Kavanaugh's nomination was scheduled to come up for a final vote in the full Senate next Tuesday.
But Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., sided with the majority on the condition that the Senate floor vote be delayed up to one week so the FBI can investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh.
Flake implied he would not vote to confirm Kavanaugh without the investigation, which would make Senate Republicans' razor-thin margin even thinner.
Later Friday, Senate GOP leaders asked the White House to order the FBI to investigate Kavanaugh before a Senate confirmation vote is held.
The "supplemental" FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against Kavanaugh and be finished no later than one week from Friday, according Senate Judiciary Committee statement.
President Donald Trump ordered the investigation as the Senate requested.
Hatch said while he believes Kavanaugh's confirmation should move forward, he supports the decision for an investigation limited in length and scope as Flake proposed.
"This will address the concerns raised by Sen. Flake and others while also being fair to the Kavanaugh family," he said.
Lee said the committee did a "professional" investigation of Christine Blasey Ford's allegations this week.
"But since some of my colleagues believe one more week of FBI investigation will bring us closer to truth I support that investigation and I look forward to voting for Judge Kavanaugh soon," he said.
Kavanaugh and Ford testified in an emotionally charged hearing Thursday about her allegations that he sexually assaulted her while they were teenagers in 1982.
Ford told the committee she is "100 percent" sure that a drunken Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party. Kavanuagh vehemently denied the accusation in combative exchanges with Democrats.
Before Thursday, Democrats had not asked Kavanaugh a single question about the allegations, and "yet again and again, their refrain has been the same: delay, delay, delay," Hatch said.
"Here's where I stand: We can't allow more time for new smears to damage Judge Kavanaugh, his family, his reputation, the reputation of the court, and, of course, the reputation of the country," he said. "We cannot allow more time for the partisans on the left to beat Judge Kavanaugh into submission."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, also called for a vote on Kavanaugh.
"Look, we have a job here to do today. Our job yesterday was to hear from Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. We've done that," he said.
Lee said he would have liked to have had an FBI investigation into Ford's allegations prior to the hearing.
"There are many of us who wished that that's where this would have begun, should have begun, as it could have begun had these letters been handed over the to FBI with the request they be investigated at an earlier time," he said, referring to the letters Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., received in July.
Had that happened, Lee said, the process could have been handled with more dignity and been more respectful to Ford and Kavanaugh and their families. He said his heart goes out to both of them.
Lee said the FBI would have interviewed Ford, Kavanaugh and eyewitnesses, but their statements would have been largely what the committee heard Thursday and received in letters, "so we have investigated."
Hatch said he's "tired of all the games and the gamesmanship" surrounding the nomination and that it's time to "end the circus."
As he has throughout the process, Hatch praised Kavanaugh, saying he has an "impeccable" reputation and is well-respected as a judge by Democrats and Republicans.
"It would be an absolute crying shame if we keep treating him like he's some sort of imposter or some sort of a person who just can't do the job. He can do the job and has done the job," he said.
Feinstein, the committee's ranking member, said Kavanaugh's "aggressive and belligerent" attitude during Thursday's hearing does not reflect the temperament of someone seeking seat on the Supreme Court.
Feinstein denied being involved in a partisan smear campaign. She said it's unfair to move forward after hearing Ford's "credible, powerful" testimony.
The Republican strategy, she said, is no longer to attack the victim, but to ignore the victim.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jenny Wilson said it's imperative that the FBI do a thorough, transparent and unbiased investigation. She said she is "dismayed" at the "aggression" of Hatch and "silence" of her Republican opponent Mitt Romney on the allegations of "credible" women.
Romney said he supports the decision to re-open the FBI background investigation into Ford's allegations.
"It is my earnest hope that this will help inform the Senate and ensure the integrity of the Supreme Court," he said.
We cannot allow more time for the partisans on the left to beat Judge Kavanaugh into submission.
–Sen. Orrin Hatch
The group Mormon Women for Ethical Government applauded Flake, who isn't seeking re-election, for calling to delay the vote for an FBI investigation.
"If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed without that additional process, that doubt will linger over both him and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court for the duration of his tenure. If he is innocent of these charges, then he, more than anyone, should want this investigation to take place so that his name can be cleared," according to statement from the group.
Rick Larsen, president of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative public policy think tank in Salt Lake City, also thanked Flake for "exhibiting the wisdom of Solomon amid partisan rancor."
Larsen said Flake's "courageous" decision benefits Ford and Kavanaugh, and promises to re-establish the integrity of two important American institutions.
The left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah say Hatch's and Lee's support of Kavanagh puts the aspirations of a powerful man over the trauma of sexual assault survivors.
"While this behavior from our Senators is not unexpected, it is nonetheless deeply disappointing," according to Katie Matheson, communications director.