SUTTON, West Virginia — Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is in a tough re-election race this year, said Saturday that he would’ve voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court even if the Senate Republicans had not had enough votes to confirm without Manchin’s help.
“I make my votes based on the facts I have,” he said, speaking outside of a scheduled event at a senior center in Sutton, West Virginia. “I've made some tough votes over my career. Once I have the facts and I can come home and explain, I'm voting for it. So my vote was the same no matter what.”
Friday afternoon, Manchin released a statement saying that he would vote for Kavanaugh and followed through on that Saturday afternoon, making him the only Democrat in the Senate to do so. His vote, along with Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), was one of the most anticipated.
Collins and Flake both voted in favor of confirming Kavanaugh; Murkowski and Heitkamp did not.
Manchin was criticized for having announced his intention to confirm Kavanaugh only after it was clear Republicans had enough votes to confirm without him. The question is how Manchin’s decision to confirm the conservative judge will play in a state where Trump won nearly 70 percent of the vote in 2016.
In a VICE News focus group conducted in West Virginia by pollster Frank Luntz Friday evening, participants said they saw Manchin’s decision as both opportunistic and representative of West Virginia voters.
“His constituency overwhelmingly voted for President Trump, more than any state. So Joe Manchin is representing his constituency,” Ryan Jackson, a 28-year-old self described moderate conservative, said. “Most likely, if you voted for President Trump, you support his Supreme Court nominees.”
Another participant, 33-year-old Calvin Grimm who voted for John McCain and Barack Obama said of Manchin’s decision, “It'll secure a large block of the swing vote. But, I think in his gut he knows he made the wrong decision.”
Parts of that focus group will air on VICE News Tonight on HBO on Tuesday.
Manchin said he consulted with Collins during his decision-making process.“It was natural for us to be together because we've been together,” he said. “We've talked all the way through this.”
He explained that while some saw Kavanaugh’s hearing as a job interview, he saw it more like a trial and that he made his decision "based on the evidence the FBI put before me.”
“I asked for that investigation and I made my decision based on that and also checking with people who've worked with him. Who know him professionally and, both, socially, “he said.”
Manchin called Kavanaugh’s angry, partisan testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee a “horrible display,” but based on his conversations with people who know the judge, he believes that the performance was atypical, and that he “was just lashing out at all the unbelievable accusations against him.”
While he voted with Republicans on the Kavanaugh nomination, he struck a different tone than Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) when asked about the anger of women who were protesting on Capitol Hill over the last week.
“Abuse of any kind can’t be tolerated in the United States of America. Nor should it be. Sexual abuse especially,” Manchin said. “People coming out for the first time, the trauma they've been carrying inside of them was deeply felt. And most concerning for all of us is to make sure they do not have to endure this. We've got to fix that. They've got to be protected and safe when they come out. And if something happens we’ve got to be there for them.”
Cook Political Report recently changed their rating of Manchin’s race from a toss up to one that leans Democrat and the latest polls show him ahead of his Republican opponent, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Cover: Sen. Joe Manchin poses for a photo, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, at an IHOP in Charleston, W.Va. He spoke to residents about his recent vote in the Senate to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (AP Photo/Tyler Evert)