Sen. Susan Collins is asking Senate Judiciary Committee leaders to allow an attorney for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to question his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, and to let Ford’s attorney question Kavanaugh during a hearing next week.

Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa has agreed to reopen Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in light of Ford’s allegations that he sexually assaulted her decades ago when both were in high school. Ford, now a psychology professor in California, had made the allegations anonymously to the committee’s ranking Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, in late July but recently came forward publicly in an interview with the Washington Post.

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations, but Grassley said Monday he would allow both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify next week. It wasn’t clear Tuesday whether Ford would agree to testify.

Collins, Maine’s senior senator and a potentially critical vote in the confirmation, has welcomed the additional testimony and offered some thoughts on procedure in her letter Tuesday.

“I respectfully recommend that you invite the attorneys retained by Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh to pose questions during the hearing,” Collins wrote. “Dr. Ford’s attorney would be permitted to question Judge Kavanaugh, and Judge Kavanaugh’s attorney would question Dr. Ford. Each would be permitted equal time to do so before Senators began their round of questions. Such an approach would provide more continuity, elicit the most information, and allow for an in-depth examination of the allegations.”

Collins had not received a response to her letter as of late afternoon Tuesday.

Grassley’s plan to limit testimony to Kavanaugh and Ford came under fire from Democrats, who demanded that other witnesses be called – in particular Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh who Ford said witnessed the attack.

In a statement Tuesday, Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark said Kavanaugh and Ford are the most important people to hear from.

“The committee can make further judgments on whether additional witnesses are needed or not,” Clark said. “They’re the two key people that we must hear from completely and under oath.”

Republicans only have a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, which means they can’t afford to lose more than one member of their caucus if Democrats all vote against Kavanaugh.

Collins has not yet said how she plans to vote but has faced pressure from constituents in Maine and activists on both sides. Maine’s other senator, Angus King, said before the allegations surfaced that he plans to vote against confirming Kavanaugh.

She met with Kavanaugh several weeks ago and had a follow-up phone conversation with him last Friday, after the allegations came out but before Ford’s name surfaced. Clark said Kavanaugh “categorically and unequivocally” denied them.

But the pressure on Collins is not likely to fade.

On Tuesday, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault issued a statement in support of Ford but did not mention either Collins or King.

“Over the last year, we have seen many survivors publicly disclose sexual assaults they endured years after the assault was perpetrated. In each case, the public conversation continues to be concerned with whether or not we can trust survivors who come forward so many years later,” the coalition’s statement read. “Dr. Blasey Ford’s later report of assault is common among victims of sexual violence. Victims don’t have much to gain by reporting sexual assault. Most often, they have a lot to lose, which is why sexual assault is the most unreported violent crime in the United States.”

The coalition said it hopes Ford is treated with respect at Monday’s hearing..

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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