WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans and Democrats have locked heads after Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were high school students, told her story publicly for the first time.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford, now 51, told the Washington Post, describing a drunken Kavanaugh trying to force himself on her, covering her mouth to stifle screams in a Maryland house in 1982. Ford provided notes from past therapy sessions where she described the attack, and her attorney provided results of a polygraph test Ford passed.

The bombshell comes with dramatic political stakes: If Kavanaugh’s nomination is withdrawn or voted down, it will be impossible for the White House and Senate Republicans to choose, vet and advance another nominee before the midterm elections, which are only seven weeks away. While election forecasters largely predict that Republicans will retain control of the Senate, they also leave open the slim possibility that Democrats could flip the upper chamber. If that happens, Senate Democrats could stop any Trump nominee to the high court for the rest of his term, leaving the Supreme Court with just eight justices and prone to deadlocks in crucial rulings. Democrats have a playbook to follow in the GOP’s block of President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in 2016.

Democrats yesterday called for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be halted until Ford’s allegation can be investigated.

But Republicans dug in.

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“It’s disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote after Democrats sat on them since July,” said Taylor Foy, spokesman for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Committee Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina echoed Grassley’s sentiment, but added: “If Ms. Ford wishes to provide information to the committee, I would gladly listen.”

Graham’s statement reflects the reality that the current #MeToo movement creates a different political reality than was in play in 1991, when Anita Hill came forward with sexual harassment accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Coupled with the upcoming elections, an attack on Ford’s credibility could backfire politically.

So far no Democrats have indicated support for Kavanaugh’s nomination — including vulnerable red state Sens. Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly or Heidi Heitkamp, all of whom announced support for Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch after his confirmation hearing.

That places all eyes on moderate GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both of whom supported Gorsuch, but who also both called on former Sen. Al Franken to resign over sexual harassment allegations. At the time Collins called the allegations against Franken “credible, disgusting and appalling and degrading to women.” If they oppose Kavanaugh, the GOP loses its lock on his confirmation.

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(c)2018 the Boston Herald

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