The Senate on Friday advanced the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, 51-49, taking a critical step to open debate before a planned final vote this weekend.
As of Friday morning, four key senators still remained publicly undecided on whether to ultimately confirm the embattled nominee: Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, along with one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Murkowski voted against the motion to move forward Friday morning, later calling the cloture vote “a mistake.”
“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” she said.
It remained possible that some of her fellow undecided senators who voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday might not ultimately vote to confirm him. Collins said Friday morning ahead of the vote that she would announce her final position on the nomination later in the afternoon.
With the vote, the clock began on up to 30 hours of debate. A final floor vote is expected to take place on Saturday.
President Donald Trump praised the vote immediately afterward. “Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting ‘YES’ to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!” he tweeted.
Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor that there was “absolutely no corroborating evidence for these allegations” of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
“All the Keystone Cops were on the case,” he said. “And Senate Democrats cheered them on.”
Friday morning’s vote came hours after Kavanaugh said in an op-ed article published Thursday night that he might have been “too emotional” in his congressional testimony last week.
“I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times,” he wrote in an article headlined, “I am an Independent, Impartial Judge,” published by The Wall Street Journal.
The article was published the same day the FBI made available to senators a report on its speedy investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. Republicans said Thursday the report had vindicated him, while Democrats blasted it as incomplete.
The vote also came amid large-scale protests against Kavanaugh’s nomination that have swept Capitol Hill in the last two weeks. Trump took aim Friday morning at protesters who targeted Flake last week ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate.
“The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it!” he tweeted. “Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love! #Troublemakers.”