Earlier today, the Senate voted 51-49, mostly along party lines, to proceed with a final floor vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite the emergence of multiple allegations of sexual assault, Republicans nonetheless coalesced around Kavanaugh while Democrats decried the White House’s restrictions on the FBI investigation as they voted against the motion to proceed.
About five hours later, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) used a melodramatic floor speech to announce, “I will vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” ensuring his final confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
What happened this morning?
In the final minutes before the Senate voted on the motion to proceed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) made one final pitch for Kavanaugh. Despite Republican leaders’ scuttling criminal justice reform legislation this year and condemning reform efforts on the campaign trail, McConnell once more used the language of reform to promote Kavanaugh: “Facts matter. Fairness matters. The presumption of innocence is sacrosanct.”
McConnell then insisted he wouldn’t allow the “politics of personal destruction poison its judgment”, but made no mention of President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick.
Ultimately 50 of 51 Senate Republicans voted on the motion to proceed, which limits further debate and expedites the final confirmation vote. Three of the key swing votes who had expressed concern about Kavanaugh, Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (D-Arizona), and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) voted for the motion to proceed, while two other moderate Democrats, Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted against. The partisan split also held in place closer to home, as Senator Dean Heller (R) voted for the motion to proceed while Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) voted against.
What comes next?
Just before 11:00 AM EDT (8:00 AM our time), the Senate began the 30 hour clock. For the rest of the day and into the night, Senators will have their last chance to give speeches on the floor and make their final deliberations. Then some time tomorrow morning (our time), the Senate will hold the final confirmation vote.
Collins used a lengthy Senate floor speech to announce her final decision on the final confirmation vote shortly after 3:00 PM EDT (noon our time). As Cortez Masto and Heller stuck to their respective positions, and the vast majority of other Senators stuck to their respective positions, the two final swing votes that seemed to be up in the air were ultimately nailed down.
12:52 PM UPDATE: Collins and Manchin will vote to confirm Kavanaugh, virtually guaranteeing his ascent to the Supreme Court
Moments ago, Senator Susan Collins took to the Senate floor to make her big announcement. After she complained that the Kavanaugh confirmation fight “looks more like a caricature of a gutter-level political campaign than a solemn confirmation”, she argued that his record on the D.C. Court of Appeals should assuage concerns that he will do whatever Trump wants him to. Collins then declared, “It is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy,” as she challenged the validity of Julie Swetnick’s story of Kavanaugh participating in gang rapes when they were teenagers.
Right before Collins spoke, protesters shouted, “Vote no!” That didn’t seem to faze her, just as local opposition here in Nevada hasn’t stopped Heller from dismissing the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh as a “hiccup”, and more recently as a “witch hunt”. And right after Collins spoke, Senator Joe Manchin finally announced that he will vote to confirm Kavanaugh as well.
Senator Heller said he has "no reservations" about confirming Judge Kavanaugh. Then he dismissed sexual assault allegations as "little hiccup."
And he just voted to move forward with his confirmation to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. Nevadans deserve better. #NVSen
— Jacky Rosen (@RosenforNevada) October 5, 2018
As we discussed yesterday, for all the talk of “due process”, this confirmation push has been anything but. And now, it’s up for the voters to decide whether they’re comfortable with this kind of conduct happening in their name inside “the world’s greatest deliberative body” (and for that matter, that House on the other end of the U.S. Capitol). While some Republicans seem giddy about the prospect of “straight white male privileged rage” fueled “Kava-mentum” saving their tenuous hold on Congress, it remains to be seen whether this theory actually becomes reality. And more importantly, it remains to be seen whether a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court should be decided by the lowest common denominator of the very troubled electoral politics of our time.