Sen. Susan Collins, who had been the last undecided Republican vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, announced Friday she will vote in favor of President Donald Trump’s pick, virtually ensuring his confirmation when the full Senate holds its final vote on Saturday.
In a speech on the Senate floor that lasted more than 40 minutes, Collins, a Maine Republican, forcefully outlined her belief that Kavanaugh was well-qualified, that the Senate confirmation process “is not a trial” and that she “cannot abandon” the “presumption of innocence.”
It now appears that there will be 51 votes in favor of Kavanaugh, because Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia came out minutes after her speech in favor of the nominee, the only Democrat to back Trump’s nominee.
“It is when passions are most inflamed, when fairness is most in jeopardy,” she said. “I worry that departing from this presumption could lead to a lack of public faith in the judiciary and would be hugely damaging to the confirmation process moving forward.”
Collins said that “fairness would dictate” that claims of sexual assault made against “should at least meet a threshold of ‘more likely than not'” but that the facts presented in the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford “lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the ‘more likely than not’ standard.”
“I do not believe these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from fairly serving on the court,” she said.
“I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” she added.
Only one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, is expected to vote against Kavanaugh.
Some undecided GOP senators on Kavanaugh call FBI report ‘reassuring’ and ‘thorough’
But Flake, who voted “yes” to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination in key procedural motion Friday morning, told reporters that he planned to vote to confirm Kavanaugh on Saturday unless something big changes.
Murkowski, however, voted against the procedural motion to move forward, later calling the cloture vote “a mistake.”
Later, she indicated that she would stick to her decision to vote “no” on Kavanaugh. She told reporters Friday that it was “truly the most difficult evaluation of a decision that I’ve ever had to make.”
“I have been wrestling with whether or not this was about the qualifications of a good man or is this bigger than the nominee. And I believe we are dealing with issues right now that are bigger than a nominee,” she said. “I believe that Brett Kavanaugh is a good man, I believe that 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.”
Republicans control 51 seats in the chamber, meaning they can’t afford to lose more than one vote, if all Democrats vote against Kavanaugh. With Murkowski a “no” and Flake a “yes” on Saturday on Saturday, that would mean they can’t afford to lose Collins — should Manchin joins all other Democrats in voting against Kavanaugh. But if Manchin, a red-state Democrat, joins Republicans in voting to confirm Kavanaugh, Republicans can afford to lose Collins.
In other words, for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be defeated, both Collins and Manchin would have to vote “no.”