The Senate has voted 51-49 to advance Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to a full Senate vote that is most likely to take place on Saturday.
Friday’s cloture vote brings to an end months of political debate on the judge’s nomination, and a media circus that has engulfed the nation since sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh surfaced in September.
The successful vote does not mean that Kavanaugh’s nomination is a done deal. Republicans hold a razor-thin 51-49 majority in the Senate, and can only afford to lose one vote if Democrats vote unanimously against Kavanaugh on Saturday.
Before the vote, all eyes were on republican Senators Jeff Flake (Arizona), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who had been undecided on Kavanaugh. Flake and Collins both said on Thursday that the report seemed “thorough,” prompting speculations that they would vote to confirm the judge, and both gave Kavanaugh an “aye” on Friday.
Murkowski crossed party lines to vote ‘no’ while West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin gave Kavanaugh his blessing, ending speculation on whether he would be the only Democrat to break party lines.
Speculation remains, however, on how the four swing senators will vote on Saturday. Murkowski’s ‘no’ on Friday likely signals a ‘no’ on Saturday, while Collins is set to announce her decision later on Friday. Manchin remains tight-lipped, as does Flake. Kavanaugh needs two of these votes to take his Supreme Court seat.
Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines is due to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding on Saturday, a scheduling conflict that could affect his vote. If present, Daines would be a reliable vote in favor of Kavanaugh.
Friday’s vote was called by Republican leadership on Thursday, after senators from both sides of the aisle reviewed the FBI’s background investigation into Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. The background check found no corroborating evidence to Ford’s claims, but Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (California) complained that the probe was not thorough enough.
Kavanaugh called the allegations “an orchestrated political hit,” and Republican Senators slammed Democrats for using the allegations to stall and delay the confirmation process.
Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) praised Kavananugh as “stunningly qualified” and said that a ‘yes’ vote would “reaffirm that in the United States of America, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”
“The resistance that has existed since the day after the November 2016 election is centered right here on Capitol Hill,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on Friday. “I hope we can say no to mob rule by voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” Grassley added.
Protesters mobbed Senate buildings ahead of Friday’s vote, with 300 activists being arrested on Thursday. Furious at his toeing the party line, activists wasted no time after Friday’s vote to storm Sen. Flake’s office, chanting “the system is corrupt, that’s why we disrupt.”
The Democrats’ anti-Kavanaugh efforts seem to have united and galvanized Republican voters ahead of November’s midterm elections.
According to an NPR poll published Wednesday, 80 percent of Republicans now consider the midterms “very important,” up from 68 percent in July. 82 percent of Democrats say the same thing, slightly up from 78 percent in July.