Brett Kavanaugh got one step closer to donning a Supreme Court justice’s robes Friday, when a deeply divided and rancorous Senate voted to advance his nomination. The procedural cloture vote, which will limit any further debate on the nomination, passed 51 to 49 along party lines.
Senators plan to take to the floor Saturday afternoon or evening for a final confirmation vote.
Republicans hold the Senate with a hairsplitting majority of 51-49, and they need 50 senators to vote yes on Kavanaugh — who's been accused of sexual misconduct in high school and college by three women and denied all wrongdoing — to confirm him. Kavanaugh’s confirmation has come down to the votes of just a handful of senators: Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Murkowski voted against cloture Friday — a sign that she may plan to ultimately vote against Kavanaugh's confirmation when that vote happens.
Manchin became the only Democratic holdout Thursday, when North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp announced she’d vote against Kavanaugh. Manchin voted yes on Friday.
Both Collins and Flake also voted in favor of the procedural vote. Collins, who reportedly plans to reveal her final vote on Kavanaugh at 3 p.m. Friday, gave a hint as to how she’ll vote when she told reporters Thursday that the FBI report into the allegations against Kavanaugh initially seemed like a “very thorough investigation.”
Flake, whose hesitance to confirm Kavanaugh spurred the FBI investigation in the first place, said Thursday that he’d seen “no additional corroborating information” to back up the allegations against Kavanaugh.
If Republicans can only secure 50 votes, Vice President Mike Pence is able to step in to cast a tiebreaking vote.
“Today we can send a message to the American people that some core principles remain unfettered by the partisan passions of this moment,” Senate Majority Leader and Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell told the Senate prior to the vote, suggesting that the debate over Kavanaugh resembles the 1954 McCarthy hearings over Communism and that the Senate will one day regard Kavanaugh’s nomination process with “shame.”
“Facts matter,” McConnell went on. “Fairness matters. The presumption of innocence is sacrosanct.”
Republicans still have one last-minute hurdle to navigate: Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines announced Thursday that he plans to head home to walk his daughter down the aisle on Saturday. If Kavanaugh’s confirmation comes down to a single vote, the GOP can hold the vote open until Daines, who supports Kavanaugh, returns to Washington.
Republican leaders will make a decision about what to do following Friday’s vote, CNN reported.
Cover image: Demonstrators protest against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as they rally outside of the Supreme Court, on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)