The Senate has voted 51-49 to advance Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to a full Senate vote amid protests, heated debates and media circus that has engulfed the nation for a month.
The successful vote does not mean that Kavanaugh’s nomination is a done deal. Republicans hold a razor-thin 51-49 majority in the Senate, and can only afford to lose one vote if Democrats vote unanimously against Kavanaugh on Saturday.
All eyes and public pressure are now on Republican Senators Jeff Flake (Arizona), Susan Collins (Maine) who were undecided and voted “aye” on Friday. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) crossed the party lines by siding with Democrats while West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin gave Kavanaugh his blessing.
Flake said on Friday that he plans on voting ‘yes’ on Saturday “unless something big changes.” Speculation remains, however, on how the remaining three swing senators will vote. Murkowski’s ‘no’ on Friday likely signals a ‘no’ on Saturday, while Collins is set to announce her decision later on Friday and Manchin remains tight-lipped. Assuming Flake is on board, Kavanaugh needs one of these three votes to take his Supreme Court seat.
Some 300 activists, including prominent #MeToo celebrity figures Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski, were arrested on Thursday as thousands rallied ahead of the vote in Washington. On Friday furious protesters gathered outside Sen. Flake’s office, chanting “the system is corrupt, that’s why we disrupt” and went to Manchin’s office.
Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines is due to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding on Saturday, a scheduling conflict that could affect his vote. If present, Daines would be a reliable vote in favor of Kavanaugh.
Friday’s vote was called by Republican leadership on Thursday, after senators from both sides of the aisle reviewed the FBI’s background investigation into Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. The background check found no corroborating evidence to Ford’s claims, but Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (California) complained that the probe was not thorough enough.
Kavanaugh called the allegations “an orchestrated political hit,” and Republican Senators slammed Democrats for using the allegations to stall and delay the confirmation process.
Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) praised Kavananugh as “stunningly qualified” and said that a ‘yes’ vote would “reaffirm that in the United States of America, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”
“The resistance that has existed since the day after the November 2016 election is centered right here on Capitol Hill,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on Friday. “I hope we can say no to mob rule by voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” Grassley added.
Democrats maintained that Kavanaugh is an unsuitable candidate. “His views are deeply at odds with the progress America has made over the last century of jurisprudence,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said.
The Democrats’ anti-Kavanaugh efforts seem to have united and galvanized Republican voters ahead of November’s midterm elections. According to an NPR poll published Wednesday, 80 percent of Republicans now consider the midterms “very important,” up from 68 percent in July. 82 percent of Democrats say the same thing, slightly up from 78 percent in July.