Time Inc
October 05, 2018 10:30 am

In a widely anticipated decision, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Friday, October 5th that she would vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Her decision means that Kavanaugh, who faces multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, is all but assured to be confirmed to the Supreme Court when the Senate votes this weekend. “I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” Collins said at the end of a 45 minute speech laying out her argument for supporting the judge.

Her speech came after Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, another key Republican swing vote, said earlier Friday he would also vote for Kavanaugh barring any major unforeseen events. With both Flake and Collins on board, Kavanaugh will very likely have 50 votes in favor and Vice President Mike Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote.

Protesters opposing and in favor of Kavanaugh lined up both alongside and inside Collins office in the hours preceding her announcement. Demonstrators wore pins that read “I said believe Christine Blasey Ford” and held signs that said “We will not be silent” while others wore shirts emblazoned with “Confirm Kavanaugh.” Some had “vote no” written on their arms. Inside her office, demonstrators were telling their own stories and writing notes to the Senator describing their own experiences. A police detail was stationed outside her office.

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When Collins stood up to make her speech on the Senate floor Friday afternoon, people in the gallery shouted loudly and had to be told they were not allowed to express approval or disapproval before she could begin. The morning began with the Senate advancing Kavanaugh in a key procedural vote, during which one key Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, broke with her party to vote “no” and one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted “yes.”

Collins and Flake both voted “yes” at the morning procedural vote, which focused on whether his final confirmation vote could come to the floor in 30 hours. The motion passed 51-49 along party lines except for Murkowski and Manchin, meaning the final confirmation vote will likely take place sometime this weekend. Murkowski told reporters after she cast her vote that she did not reach her decision until walking into the chamber. “I believe he is a good man,” she said of Kavanaugh. “It just may be that in my view he’s not the right man for the court at this time.”

Further complicating the Republican voting math is the fact that Montana Sen. Steve Daines will be attending his daughter’s wedding on Saturday and has said he promised to walk her down the aisle. Daines said that if he needs to fly back to be the deciding vote in support of Kavanaugh, he would be using Rep. Greg Gianforte’s private plane. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who had previously been undecided on the nomination, said Thursday after reading the FBI report that she would vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination, and she voted “no” on the procedural vote Friday morning.

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The Friday morning vote came one day after the FBI released its new report into the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. Last week, Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused the judge of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But after the emotional day-long testimonies, Democratic Senators called for the FBI to investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh before lawmakers voted on his confirmation. The bureau re-opened its background check into the nominee after Flake and other undecided Republican Senators joined this call for more information before voting on Kavanaugh.

When the FBI gave Senators its report on Thursday, Republicans said it included no new information while Democrats called the report “incomplete” and suggested the White House had limited the agency’s ability to investigate. In an unusual step, Kavanaugh himself wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday night before the procedural vote, trying to reassure lawmakers that he would be an “independent, impartial judge.” Still, partisan tensions were evident in the chamber even before the vote on Friday. “Before left wing outside groups and Democratic leaders had him in their sight, Judge Kavanaugh possessed an impeccable reputation and was held in high esteem,” Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said on the Senate floor Friday morning.

Before procedural vote, President Donald Trump tweeted criticisms of the protestors who have filled the Capitol in recent days, saying they were only there to “make Senators look bad.”

After the vote, the President appeared more satisfied. “Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting “YES” to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!” he tweeted.