Washington, D.C., USA : The key procedural vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court passed 51-49 on Friday morning.
In a dramatic midmorning vote, members of the Senate voted to move President Donald Trump’s embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh forward for a final vote. While the vote was not necessarily indicative of the final confirmation vote, it moved him one step closer to sitting on the highest court in the land and three out of four key undecided senators voted “yes” to advance the nomination.
Collins voted to end debate but isn’t expected to make an announcement on if she will vote to confirm him until 3 p.m., setting up a must-watch moment on the Senate floor.
Republicans hold a slim two-seat majority in the Senate, which allows them to lose one vote from their conference and still confirm Kavanaugh without Democratic help.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, a key vote, opted not to move the nominee forward. A group of s****l assault survivors, including a gathering of Native American women – a vital voting bloc in her district – had urged her not to move forward with Kavanaugh.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., also key senators in the confirmation process, opted to advance Kavanaugh for a final vote.
The confirmation vote will likely be held on Saturday.
President Trump welcomed the vote in a tweet, saying he was “very proud” of the Senate.
Republicans needed and netted a simple majority of 51 to invoke cloture and move forward with the final vote tomorrow.
A parade of lawmakers took to the floor to make their case for or against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Justice confirmation.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, declared that voting for Kavanaugh is “voting no to mob rule.”
“We should all admire Kavanaugh’s willingness to serve his country despite the way he’s been treated,” Grassley said.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declared: “President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court will go down as one of the saddest, most sordid chapters in the long history of the federal judiciary.”
Senators had one day to review a confidential supplemental background check into Kavanaugh’s behavior in the early- to mid-1980s when he was in high school and college. The closely guarded collection of interviews is celebrated by Republican leaders as concrete proof that Kavanaugh did not harass or abuse women. Democrats say the interviews, which they originally requested, are incomplete and inconclusive.
Flake forced Republicans to launch the additional investigation last week after a tense negotiation with Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats. Flake spent a large portion of the afternoon reviewing the FBI work and said he saw no new evidence to corroborate any of the claims against Kavanaugh, which Flake had previously indicated would mean he will vote to confirm.
Democrats saw something very different in the report. Several criticized Republicans for limiting the FBI investigation to just nine interviews. They said the process ignored many potential witnesses, including Ford.
The FBI also apparently did not interview Kavanaugh.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said those issues raised serious doubts about Kavanaugh and his qualifications.
“Judge Kavanaugh stated at his hearing that the individuals at the incident involving Dr. Ford refuted her version of events,” Schumer said Thursday. “From their own public statements, we knew that to be false, and nothing in this report changes that.”
Similar concerns moved Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to announce Thursday that she would oppose Kavanaugh. Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Democrats on the ballot in November and has seen her poll numbers slip in recent weeks. She’s running for re-election in a state president Trump won in 2016 by more than 35 points.
Heitkamp said she was troubled by Kavanaugh’s aggressive appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the message his confirmation would send to women and girls across the country.
“When considering a lifetime appointment to Supreme Court, we must evaluate the totality of the circumstances and record before us,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “In addition to the concerns about his past conduct, last Thursday’s hearing called into question Judge Kavanaugh’s current temperament, honesty, and impartiality.”
Her opposition leaves Manchin, as the only undecided Democrat on final passage. He is also in a tough re-election campaign and was silent on Kavanaugh in the days leading up to the vote.
The nomination now hangs on the decisions of Collins, Murkowski, Flake and Manchin. Sen. Flake has said he plans to vote in favor of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court.
Confirmation would hand Trump a clear victory and tip the balance on the court to a 5-4 majority in favor of conservatives in possible legal battles ahead over contentious issues such as abortion rights, immigration, and Trump’s attempt to ban transgender people from the U.S. military.
The Kavanaugh fight has riveted Americans just weeks before Nov. 6 elections in which Democrats are trying to take control of Congress from the Republicans.