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Senators Manchin, Collins say they will vote to confirm Kavanaugh a Supreme Court justice


Friday October 5, 2018

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said Friday that they will vote to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, likely ensuring that President Trump’s nominee will ascend to the Supreme Court after a bitter partisan fight that has included allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Collins, a swing vote, said Kavanaugh had “received rave reviews” for his 12 years as a federal appeals court judge and that the misconduct allegations against him failed to meet a standard of “more likely than not.”

“I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” Collins said at the end of remarks lasting about 45 minutes, prompting appaluse in the chamber.

The final confirmation vote, scheduled for Saturday, needs support from at least 50 senators. Vice President Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote if necessary.

ollins’s announcement followed a 51-to-49 vote earlier Friday on a procedural motion to advance Kavanaugh's’s nomination.

The last of the undecided votes began falling into place after the senators reviewed a highly anticipated report from the FBI investigating allegations of misconduct against Kavanaugh while in high school and college in the early 1980s.

In Friday morning’s vote, Collins and Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), two of the Republican holdouts, agreed to advance Trump’s nominee, while Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) was the only GOP senator to break with her party. Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), a red-state Democrat up for reelection next month, was the only Democrat to support Kavanaugh’s advancement.

In addition to Collins, Flake also indicated that he plans to vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Saturday “unless something big changes,” which he said he doesn’t expect.

That would give Kavanaugh the 50 votes he needs. Manchin has yet to say how he intends to vote on Saturday. Some senators have made a practice of voting to advance nominations even if they might ultimately vote against them.

Trump nominated Kavanaugh in July to succeed retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a move that triggered an intense partisan battle over the court’s future well before the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.

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The nomination collided with the #MeToo movement and midterm election politics and could alter the balance of power on the Supreme Court for a generation.

Friday’s vote came after Trump mocked one of Kavanaugh’s accusers this week at a political rally and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee issued a statement purportedly describing the sex life of another accuser, attacks that advocates for victims decried.

Confirmation of Kavanaugh would be a crowning achievement for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who blocked a Democratic nominee to the court for more than a year and has muscled dozens of appeals and district court nominees through the Senate.

After Friday’s procedural vote, some Democrats held out hope that enough senators would switch sides to sink Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said many Democrats were continuing to talk with Manchin in hopes that he will ultimately vote no on Kavanaugh.

“I think he wanted to move it along to a final vote,” Booker said. “I understand his logic, and we’ll see what happens on his final vote.”

Manchin, who is running for reelection in a state Trump won by 43 points, indicated he would put out a statement on his reasoning later Friday.

Murkowski said she made up her mind to vote against advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination as she entered the chamber to vote Friday.

“I believe that Brett Kavanaugh is a good man,” she told reporters. “I believe he is a good man. It just may be that in my view he’s not the right man for the court at this time.”

A handful of influential senators — including McConnell and Collins — ate lunch together in the members-only Senate dining room on the first floor of the Capitol on Friday afternoon, McConnell briefly told reporters. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who had been eating separately with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), joined the group, and the GOP senators all ate together, Graham said.

“We had a good day today, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow afternoon,” McConnell said. “We’re headed toward a final vote tomorrow afternoon, and I’m optimistic.”

Before Collins’s floor speech began, most Republicans took seats to hear her, with McConnell arriving a couple minutes ahead of time. McConnell took his seat at the front of the chamber and turned it completely backward so he could straight at Collins, whose desk is two rows directly behind his — a highly unusual move by the leader.

Collins was briefly interrupted by protesters, who yelled, “Show up for Maine women, vote.” They were quickly ushered out of the gallery.

Trump nominated Kavanaugh in July to succeed retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a move that triggered an intense partisan battle over the court’s future well before the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.

The nomination collided with the #MeToo movement and midterm election politics and could alter the balance of power on the Supreme Court for a generation.

Friday’s vote came as Trump mocked one of Kavanaugh’s accusers this week at a political rally and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee issued a statement purportedly describing the sex life of another accuser, attacks that advocates for victims decried.

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Confirmation of Kavanaugh would be a crowning achievement for McConnell, who blocked a Democratic nominee to the court for more than a year and has muscled dozens of appeals and district court nominees through the Senate.

Shortly after Friday’s vote, Trump reacted on Twitter.

“Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting ‘YES’ to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!” he wrote.

Before the vote, leaders of the chamber traded sharply divergent characterizations of whether Kavanaugh belongs on the court.

Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Kavanaugh’s nomination “one of he saddest, most sordid chapters in the long history of the federal judiciary.”

McConnell, meanwhile, praised the qualifications of the president’s nominee and said he had been the victim of an “unbelievable mudslide” of unsubstantiated allegations.

The jockeying for final votes played out after the senators reviewed the FBI report. Republicans argued that it exonerated Kavanaugh of any wrongdoing, giving senators more confidence in voting to confirm him. But Democrats disputed the Republicans’ assertions, especially because, they argued, the scope of the investigation was too limited.

The 46-page FBI report cannot be released publicly, and senators are barred from talking about it in detail. All day Thursday and Friday morning, senators shuffled in and out of a secure facility at the Capitol to read through the report, which included copies of interviews with key witnesses and stacks of material gleaned from an FBI tip line.

After Friday’s procedural vote, Senate Republicans hope to take a final vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Saturday.

Potentially complicating matters for Republicans is that Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) announced Thursday he plans to be at his daughter’s wedding back home on Saturday. But Daines’s vote will not be needed unless one Republican defects and Democrats stay unified against Kavanaugh. In that case, a Saturday evening session could be held open for hours into Sunday so Daines, who supports Kavanaugh, could return to Washington.

Daines told reporters Friday that he would fly back late Saturday if he is needed for the vote.

“This is all going to work out,” he predicted. “We’re going to have a new Supreme Court justice this weekend, and I’m going to get to walk my daughter down the aisle.”

Kavanaugh, 53, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 2006 and previously worked in George W. Bush’s White House. He served as a clerk to Kennedy in the early 1990s alongside Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated for the Supreme Court last year.

The American Bar Association, which had issued a unanimous “well qualified” rating for Kavanaugh, said in a letter sent Friday that it would reopen its evaluation because of “new information of a material nature regarding temperament” that emerged from an emotional and combative hearing last week the featured testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh addressed his comportment at the hearing in an extraordinary op-ed in the Wall Street Journal published Thursday night, acknowledging that he was “very emotional” during his testimony and “I said a few things I should not have said.”

“Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hard-working, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Mike DeBonis, Robert Costa, Erica Werner, Sean Sullivan, Elise Viebeck and Paul Kane contributed to this report.



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