Washington – Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s quest to become the next member of the Supreme Court received several crucial boosts Friday, making his confirmation all but certain.
In a narrow procedural vote Friday morning, the Senate advanced Kavanaugh’s nomination to a final vote scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Both of Connecticut’s Democratic senators voted against moving the nomination ahead.
Kavanaugh prospects for confirmation were also strengthened Friday when several key senators — whom Kavanaugh’s opponents hoped to sway — said they will vote for the nominee.
In a mid-afternoon speech that lauded Kavanaugh’s judicial record and railed against “abandoning the presumption of innocence,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would vote in favor of the nominee’s confirmation, making it almost assured.
Kavanaugh has been accused by several women of sexual misconduct, but Collins said these accusations have not been corroborated.
“I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the Supreme Court,” she said.
Collins indicated she has become alarmed at a confirmation process that involved “special interest groups that whipped their followers into a frenzy.”
At least six protesters shouting “vote no on Kavanaugh” were dragged out of the Senate gallery just before Collins made her speech.
“We must always remember that when passions are most inflamed, fairness is most in jeopardy,” Collins said.
The Maine senator had been targeted by special interest groups opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination, especially abortion-rights groups that fear the nominee will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized early-term abortion in all states, if confirmed to the court.
Collins was joined in declaring support for Kavanaugh by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. and Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., who were also considered swing votes. It was Flake who put a halt to the nomination process last week with his demand that Kavanaugh’s FBI background check be reopened to investigate the sexual assault allegations.
“This is a difficult decision for everybody,” Flake told reporters.
Earlier in the day, the mood in the Senate chamber was somber as senators sat at their desks instead of milling around and socializing as they normally do when a vote is called. They then voted 51-49 for a procedural vote that vote clears the way for a final confirmation.
As expected, Connecticut’s two senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, voted against moving the nomination forward on Friday. But the “no” vote from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in a voice that was barely louder than a whisper, caused a stir. So did the decision of Manchin, the only Democrat to vote yes.
Blumenthal said he had hoped Collins would come out against the nominee, and that her opposition would encourage others.
Instead, Collins’ support gives Kavanaugh the 50 votes he needs to be confirmed and Republican leaders a critical victory. Vice President Mike Pence could cast the tie-breaking vote if necessary.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Collins’ speech “absolutely inspirational.”
Opponents of Kavanaugh’s nomination fear he would move the Supreme Court to the right for decades if confirmed. The bitter partisan fight over the nomination has shredded Senate decorum and is likely to leave a bitter political aftertaste.
“I worry that there is no going back,” said Murphy.
Murphy said he is concerned that elevating a “partisan” to the Supreme Court would “erode” the stature of the nation’s highest court.
“I don’t know why they don’t replace Kavanaugh with another conservative judge,” Murphy said.
In a statement released after the vote, Murphy said, “this entire process should embarrass all of us.”
“Despite overwhelming opposition to Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination in Connecticut and around the country, Senate Republicans are jamming him through,” the senator said.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation process was thrown into tumult by the allegations of sexual misconduct. He issued a searing denial of any wrongdoing at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, suggesting the allegations were planned smears by Democrats.
Democrats, who first based their opposition to Kavanaugh based on his conservative legal opinions said Kavanaugh’s angry testimony before the Judiciary Committee last week — which included attacks on Democrats — showed he did not have the “temperament” to be a judge.
“It was not spontaneous. It was not the result of some accusation of the moment. It was calculated. And it was premeditated,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said he went back on Friday to re-read the FBI’s final report on their investigation on Friday because “there have been a couple of questions in my mind about statements made by Republican colleagues” about comments made by some of the 10 people the FBI interviewed.
“I wanted to do a deep dive,” he said.
Blumenthal said he also read hundreds of pages of “tips” to the FBI that were not used in the investigation, which was limited to the accusations two women, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, made against Kavanaugh.
“I found some very significant leads that were never pursued,” Blumenthal said.
A single copy of documents pertaining to the FBI investigation were available only to senators and nine members of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff. Senators have been given no more than an hour at a time to read them in a secure room in the U.S. Capitol complex. The senators are barred from releasing any details of the investigation.
But Republicans say the report vindicates Kavanaugh, while Democrats called the investigation an incomplete rush job.
Gov. Dannel Malloy said he has not given up hope that Kavanaugh’s nomination can be derailed.
“We have 30 hours to make the case that a man facing credible accusations of sexual assault is unfit for the Supreme Court of the United States, that he lacks the temperament to serve as an impartial jurist, and that he has shown an open hostility to many of the rights and liberties Connecticut residents hold dear,” the governor said in a statement.