After months of debate, last minute allegations of sexual assault, an FBI investigation and dozens of hours of tense testimony, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh now has the 50 votes required to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, after both GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced that they would be voting yes. GOP holdout Jeff Flake of Arizona also said that he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh "unless something big changed."
Earlier in the day, the Senate completed a cloture vote to advance Kavanaugh to final confirmation, which Manchin broke ranks and voted in favor of.
Most senators sat at their desk as the dramatic roll call unfolded, with major suspense over where Murkowski, Manchin and Flake would land. Collins was the first swing vote to support Kavanaugh on the procedural roll call, quickly followed by Flake. Murkowski then inaudibly voted no, a jarring defection that left Republicans with no room for error.
After it was clear that Kavanaugh had the 50 votes needed to advance, Manchin became Kavanaugh's only Democratic supporter. Manchin, who left the chamber when the clerk called his name, came back into the chamber and voted in favor of Kavanaugh. His phone could be seen ringing and Manchin stared at it as the vote continued. -Politico
"This is a difficult decision for everybody," Flake said to reporters, who added that he thinks Kavanaugh will be confirmed on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) is set to fly to Montana to attend his daughter's Saturday wedding. If the vote is too close without Daines, he will be forced to fly back to Washington D.C. to cast the deciding vote.
"We'll wait and see how this all unfolds," Daines said. "We have transportation arranged and we'll wait and see what happens." He added that Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) offered him the use of his private plane.
President Trump has taken a largely hands-off approach to Kavanaugh's confirmation - instead communicating in private with his political allies, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), according to Politico, which adds that the White House is "cautiously opimistic" that Kavanaugh will be confirmed.
According to PredictIt, however, Kavanaugh's odds of confirmation now stand at 96%:
Update 4: Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia broke ranks, announcing his support for Judge Kavanaugh shortly after Collins' announcement.
"Based on all of the information I have available to me, including the recently completed FBI report, I have found Judge Kavanaugh to be a qualified jurist who will follow the Constitution and determine cases based on the legal findings before him," Manchin wrote in a statement.
BREAKING —> Manchin to back Kavanaugh pic.twitter.com/bZaZ0i68f9— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) October 5, 2018
Update 3: Collins will vote to confirm Kavanaugh
Update 2: Collins defended Kavanaugh's record defending gay rights, citing a quote in the gay baker case: "the days of treating gay and lesbian couples as second class citizens who are inferior in dignity and worth are over in this supreme court."
On the topic of abortion and over turning Roe v. Wade, Collins says that to her knowledge "Judge Kavanaugh is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not merely a practice and tradition, but rooted in article three of our constitution itself."
Collins on Kavanaugh: "In short, his views on honoring precedent would preclude attempts to do by stealth that which one has committed not to do overtly."— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 5, 2018
Susan Collins: "His opinions are invariably thoughtful and fair... Judge Kavanaugh is more a centrist than some of his critics maintain."— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 5, 2018
COLLINS: "I found (Ford's) testimony to be sincere, painful and compelling. I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life. Nevertheless, the four witnesses she named could not corroborate any of the events of that evening."— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 5, 2018
Susan Collins: "This is not a criminal trial and I do not believe that claims such as these need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt" but the claims "should meet a threshold of more likely than not." She says "the allegations fail to meet the more likely than not standard."— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 5, 2018
Susan Collins: "The fact remains, someone leaked this letter against Professor Ford's expressed wishes. I suspect, regrettably, that we will never know who did it... To that leaker...let me say that what you did was unconscionable."— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 5, 2018
Update: Collins started out by blasting liberals for promising to oppose whomever Trump picked for the Supreme Court before Kavanaugh's name was even known.
GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine is announcing whether she will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Collins was one of three GOP holdouts, along with Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska - who is likely to vote no after stating on Friday that Kavanaugh was "not the right man for the court."
Collins joined with Flake and Murkowski in demanding the FBI investigate claims of sexual harassment against Kavanaugh, and said on Thursday that it was "very thorough" and did not corroborate the claims of accuser Christine Blasey Ford.
"I think Susan Collins was quoted saying it was very thorough but no new corroborative information came out of it. That’s accurate," Flake told reporters after viewing the FBI report in the Capitol Visitor Center's secure compartmentalized information facility (SCIF) on Thursday.
As Collins took the podium, several protesters began shouting "vote no!" from the Senate gallery.