Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who voted to send Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination to the floor, said Friday that she intends to cast an “aye” vote in Saturday’s final step toward confirmation.
The announcement by Collins (pictured above left) on the Senate floor all but assures that Kavanaugh (above right) will replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, solidifying a conservative majority — for perhaps 15 years or longer.
Shortly after Collins left the Senate floor, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced that he will also support Kavanaugh. Assuming no senator changes his or her mind between now and the final vote, sometime Saturday, Kavanaugh should be confirmed.
Collins went through a long rendition of Kavanaugh’s judicial record and qualifications, rejecting claims by critics that he is out of the mainstream. Although she expressed sympathy for a woman who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault 36 years ago, she said the accusation remains unproven.
“If we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting as though it might be, we must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is the most in jeopardy,” she said.
The procedural vote got the support of all Republicans except for Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who had kept her cards close to the vest throughout the long confirmation process.
“I took the very, very difficult vote that I did,” she told reporters. “I believe Brett Kavanaugh is a good man. I believe he is a good man. It just might be, in my view, he is not the right man for the court at this time.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) erected a speed bump last week by demanding that GOP leaders agree to an FBI investigation looking into sexual assault allegations leveled against Kavanaugh. But Flake pronounced himself satisfied that the investigation did not produce evidence to corroborate the allegations.
Flake voted “yes” on Friday and said he will vote “yes” again on Saturday.
“Unless something big changed. I don’t know what would,” he told reporters.
Adding to the drama is that Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), a Kavanaugh supporter, is scheduled to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding on Saturday. If the vote goes the same on Saturday as it did Friday, he could afford to miss it, and Kavanaugh would be confirmed 50-49 instead of 51-49.
“Today we have come to the conclusion of a confirmation process that has become so dysfunctional it looks more like a caricature of a gutter-level political campaign than a solemn occasion.”
But if one senator were to switch from “yes” to “no,” Daines would be needed in Washington to save the nomination.
Fox News reporter Brooke Singman tweeted that Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) had offered Daines the use of his private plane in case he needs to hightail it back to the nation’s capital.
Kavanaugh will join the high court, which already has begun its term, after one of the most brutal confirmation battles in history. Many Democrats announced their opposition within hours of President Donald Trump’s July 9 announcement that Kavanaugh was his choice.
By the time Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings started in September, most Democrats already were on record against him, casting him as a judicial extremist.
Democrats kicked their opposition into overdrive after Palo Alto University psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of trying to rape her at an underage drinking party when both of them were in high school, in the early 1980s. Two other women later made allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior.
Kavanaugh vociferously denied all of the allegations, and no eyewitness came forward to back up the accusations.
Absent the accusations, Kavanaugh would have sailed through in an earlier era. He has served a dozen years as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, drawing high marks from lawyers with whom he’s interacted.
He also received the highest rating from the American Bar Association (ABA), which assesses the qualifications of potential judges. The ABA Standing Committee, however, did inform the Senate judiciary panel in a letter Friday that it would reopen its evaluation of his credentials amid new concerns about his “temperament” following his combative testimony last month.
The letter’s last line, however, reiterated that the Standing Committee’s previous rating remains unchanged.
Kavanaugh also has an elite educational pedigree, having graduated from both Yale University and Yale Law School.
In her remarks on the Senate floor, Collins blasted how badly the confirmation process has degenerated. She noted that interest groups and senators immediately came out against Kavanaugh — in some cases, before the name even became public.
“Today we have come to the conclusion of a confirmation process that has become so dysfunctional, it looks more like a caricature of a gutter-level political campaign than a solemn occasion,” she said.
As if to reinforce her point, protesters harassed Manchin in the hallway, chanting “shame, shame” as he explained to reporters why he decided to vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Collins methodically laid out the case for Kavanaugh and her own thorough review. She said she read his opinions as a judge, his speeches, and his law review articles. She said she received weekly briefings from 19 lawyers and met with thousands of constituents on both sides.
She said she also watched 32 hours of the judge’s testimony, met with him for two hours in her Senate office, and talked with him by phone for another hour.
Collins said she is confident Kavanaugh respects precedent and would not overturn the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide and recent rulings upholding the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage.
“To my knowledge, Judge Kavanaugh is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not merely a practice and tradition by rooted in Article III of our Constitution itself,” she said.
Addressing concerns that Kavanaugh has too expansive a view of presidential power, Collins said the judge “has been unequivocal that no president is above the law.”
And while Collins gave great weight to Ford’s allegation, she expressed contempt for the accusation by Washington, D.C., resident Julie Swetnick that Kavanaugh was complicit in gang rapes during high school.
“That such an allegation can find its way into the Supreme Court confirmation process is a stark reminder about why the presumption of innocence is so ingrained in our American consciousness,” she said.
Collins added, “He has been an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband and father. Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have far fewer 5-4 votes.”