Jeff Flake is getting the blame for the further delay in the Senate confirmation floor vote for Brett Kavanaugh.

After announcing he would vote in favor of Kavanaugh at the Judiciary Committee, without any conditions, Flake was pulled aside in the Senate hearing anteroom and aggressively lobbied by Democrats. It was an unusual scene, with Chuck Grassley and other Republican Senators waiting for Flake to emerge so that a vote could be taken.

What happened out of sight was that Democrats prevailed on Flake to condition his vote on a supplemental FBI background investigation, to take up to a week.

It was not clear, and still is not clear, what the scope of that investigation would be. Clearly, it includes the claims of Christine Ford that were the subject of yesterday’s hearing and extensive Judiciary Committee investigation. But does it also include the completely uncorroborated claims of Deborah Ramirez and the bizarre claims of Julie Swetnick?

It’s supposed to be limited to a week, but Ford’s lawyers already have announced they do not accept that limitation.

For the Democrats, they may have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. After Kavanaugh’s testimony yesterday, Conservatives/Republicans/Deplorables were stoked. Trump was stoked. Victory over the devious, disingenuous, dishonest and disgusting Democrats who sought to destroy Kavanaugh was at hand.

Anger over the War on Kavanaugh was to bring out a previously sleepy electorate, and possibly save Republican control of both houses of Congress.

The Judiciary Committee vote this morning was to launch what amounted to a multi-day victory party, with a series of Senate floor votes starting Saturday and ending with confirmation on Tuesday. While it would not be as amazing as election night 2016, it would have been been sweet revenge, in which each of us who has received some small measure of the abuse directed at Kavanaugh would be triumphant.

But it was taken away by Flake’s announcement. Flake earlier in the morning had been cornered in an elevator by activists screaming at him. As a Democrat operative noted on Twitter:

“Jeff Flake getting cornered in an elevator with his tail between his legs was one of the BIGGEST reasons he maneuvered for the FBI investigation into Kavanaugh. Just days ago, pundits were saying we shouldn’t confront politicians…”

Flake’s capitulation will embolden further confrontations against Republicans. Ian Millhiser, “Justice Editor” for leftist Think Progress, saw the connection, tweeting:

“Tell me again why we shouldn’t confront Republicans where they eat, where they sleep, and where they work until they stop being complicit in the destruction of our democracy.”

https://twitter.com/imillhiser/status/1045740430229409793

Flake not only stole our victory, he emboldened the most aggressive of our opponents.

But Flake wasn’t alone. He took this move with the support of Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.

We are hostages to these three. Flake is leaving, but Murkowski and Collins will continue their de facto control unless Republicans increase their numbers in the Senate. And there probably will be another Senator or two who will step into Flake’s shoes.

I’ve seen analysis by many people that this was a smart move by Flake. That a supplemental FBI investigation will not reveal anything new, that this will wrap up within the week, and that Republicans will hold the line confirming Kavanaugh in a way that stops the complaints about a lack of FBI investigation. That might give cover to one or two Democrats at risk in deeply red states to vote with the Republicans.

That may have been what was sold to Trump, who was unusually restrained today as the developments unfolded. I assume Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and possibly others told him it’s in the bag, let the show go on a few more days. Be patient.

Maybe.

More likely, Democrats will use these extra days to ramp up the pressure on Flake, Collins and Murkowski, to cook up more accusations, to do whatever it takes to bring down Kavanaugh. Delay under the pretense of an FBI investigation has been the major theme of Democrats. But it’s delay for delay sake. Even if the FBI finds nothing new, Democrats will continue to attack and to argue that Kavanaugh is unfit and an illegitimate nominee.

As ugly as the last two weeks have been, the next few days may be even uglier. Certainly Democrat Senators have not lowered their attacks.

Elizabeth Warren vowed to fight “tooth and nail” to stop Kavanaugh despite Flake’s agreement:

“We believe & stand with Dr. Ford. This isn’t over yet. Senator Jeff Flake has called for a one-week delay to allow for an FBI investigation. We’ll fight tooth and nail on the Senate floor to stop Brett Kavanaugh from a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”

For those of you not schooled in the history of Elizabeth Warren, the vow to fight “tooth and nail” is a throwback to her infamous vow that there would be “plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor” fighting for her legislative goals.

The result of the Flake-Murkowski-Collins capitulation is that Democrats get to claim a victory because they fought and stalled and bullied and attacked and forced Republicans to retreat, even if Kavanaugh is confirmed. That’s what their base demanded of them, and they delivered.

Lindsey Graham electrified, excited and motivated us with his spirited defense of Kavanaugh at the hearings. This could have been the moment when the rise of the blue wave began to slow and recede.

Maybe I’m overly pessimistic, and Kavanaugh will get confirmed in a week.

But it won’t be the same. We’ve been deprived of the victory we deserved even if Kavanaugh is confirmed. Instead, we’ve been humiliated by seeing our representatives forced to retreat, apologize, capitulate and crawl past the finish line.

And if they don’t make it past the finish line? All hell is going to break loose.