The razor-thin Republican Senate majority that could hand a contentious victory to Brett Kavanaugh rests, in part, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski — the moderate Republican from Alaska with a #MeToo story of her own. The Senate narrowly voted — 51-49 — Friday morning to end debate on Kavanaugh’s ascent to the Supreme Court after days of debate surrounding accusations of sexual misconduct from three different women and a subsequent FBI probe. As the only Republican “no” vote, however, Murkowski could hold the key to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. If she votes nay again on his confirmation Saturday — and another Republican joins her — Kavanaugh might not take his seat on the high court as planned.
Republicans need 51 votes in the Senate to confirm Kavanaugh, and the party currently holds 51 seats. In the event of a 50-50 vote, Vice President Mike Pence would act as the tiebreaker and vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
That means West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, could also change Kavanaugh’s fate. Although his “yes” vote tipped the scales in favor of Kavanaugh Friday, he could change his vote by Saturday. And if Murkowski keeps her vote, Pence would need to step in.
Murkowski told Frank Thorp of NBC News that she changed her mind heading into the Senate chamber Friday morning. She had met with several survivors of sexual assault the day before, according to MSNBC.
"I believe Brett Kavanaugh is a good man," Murkowski said, according to BuzzFeed. "In my view, he’s not the right man for the court at this time."
The other moderate Republicans that often vote in tandem with Murkowski — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Jeff Flake or Arizona — voted to advance Kavanaugh’s confirmation Friday. But they still haven’t made how they’ll vote Saturday entirely clear. Flake
said he thinks
Kavanaugh will be confirmed on Saturday and indicated he’ll vote to confirm him. Collins will reportedly reveal her decision at 3 p.m. Friday, but has indicated that she’s satisfied with the FBI investigation into the allegations of sexual assault.
The day before the cloture vote on Friday, Collins, Flake and Murkowski huddled together in a secure room in the basement of the Capitol to review the FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who gave powerful testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, as
. That FBI investigation likely would have never happened if it weren’t for Flake, who indicated last week that he’d vote against Kavanaugh without a final word from federal investigators.
Now that Murkowski has voted against Kavanaugh, her moderate colleagues could choose to join her. If all three vote “no” together — even if Manchin keeps his “yes” vote — Kavanaugh loses the confirmation.
Without getting into any details, Murkowski told reporters
that she has a #MeToo experience.
“A lot of American women are saying that they’ve had #MeToo moments” Alaska Public Media reporter Liz Ruskin asked Murkowski. “And I’m wondering if you have.” “Yes,” Murkowski responded, without elaborating. Hundreds of Alaskan, female attorneys wrote to Murkowski to urge her to vote against Kavanaugh, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Alaska’s sexual assault rate is nearly three times the national average, according to the Anchorage advocacy group Standing Together Against Rape. About 59 percent of adult women in the state have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both.
Murkowski isn’t up for reelection for 2022, while Flake intends to retire after this term. Collins isn’t up for reelection until 2020. Manchin is currently embroiled in a heavily contested Senate race, in a state that overwhelmingly voted for President Trump in 2016.
Cover image: Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks to members of the media after a vote to advance Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill, Friday, Oct. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)