Brett Kavanaugh is all but confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court after a contentious, partisan fight to keep him off the bench.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, said in an impassioned, lengthy speech before the Senate that she’ll vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the high court Saturday. Right after she left the Senate floor, Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, announced he’ll also be a “yes.” Collins is breaking with her colleague, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who said she will not vote to confirm Kavanaugh. The two moderate, Republican women often vote in tandem on contentious issues and both expressed concern over the allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh by three women.
Republicans need 51 votes in the Senate to confirm Kavanaugh, and with Collins’ “yes” vote, Democrats would need both Manchin and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake to join their side to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation. In the event of a 50-50 vote, Vice President Mike Pence would act as the tiebreaker.
In her announcement on the Senate floor, Collins decried what she called the partisan actions of her colleagues who denied Kavanaugh a fair shot before his nomination was even announced by President Trump in July. She also insisted the Senate can’t abandon the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
“Our Supreme Court confirmation process has been in steady decline for more than 30 years,” Collins said. “One can only hope the Kavanaugh nomination is where the process has finally hit rock bottom.”
As Collins started to speak at the podium, the voices of women immediately flooded the Senate chambers, screaming and chanting at the Republican senator to vote no from the gallery. They were shushed before she continued speaking. Her duty as a senator, Collins explained Friday, was to focus on Kavanaugh’s qualifications to sit on the high court — not his personal views or politics — and to trust he wouldn’t be partisan on the bench. She talked about potential threats to the Affordable Care Act, Roe vs. Wade, “cases of alleged wrongdoing by the president,” including the special counsel investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election. Ultimately, she decided that Kavanaugh would be able to fairly hear cases on all those issues, without inserting bias.
“I asked the judge point-blank whether he had made any commitments or pledges to anyone at the White House, to the Federalist Society, to any outside group on how he would decide cases,” Collins said. “He unequivocally assured me he would not.” After sharing her thoughts on Kavanaugh’s judicial record, Collins eventually turned to the allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Collins spoke of support for sexual assault survivors and said she believed that Christine Blasey Ford — the first of three women to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct — was indeed assaulted. But she doubted whether Kavanaugh was Ford’s attacker, although Ford had testified she was “100 percent certain” of her attacker to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “None of the individuals Professor Ford says were at the party has any recollection at all of that night,” Collins said. “Judge Kavanaugh forcefully denied the allegations under penalty of perjury.”
Collins also called Julie Swetnick’s allegation that Kavanaugh may have been present at parties where gang rape occurred “outrageous.” She did not mention the allegations specifically brought forward by Deborah Ramirez, who alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drunken party at Yale University. In the past few weeks, Collins’ office has been deluged with thousands of coat hangers — a grim reminder of the pre- Roe v. Wade days, when women didn’t have nationwide access to abortion. Activists also raised more than $1 million for a potential Democrat opponent when Collins comes up for reelection in 2020, should she vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Collins previously called that an attempt at bribery.
Cover image: Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)