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McConnell 'optimistic' about Kavanaugh vote after lunch with Collins

The Hill logo The Hill 10/5/2018 Tal Axelrod

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed optimism about the chances of Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

McConnell made the remarks after he and others in the GOP leadership had lunch with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a potential swing vote to put Kavanaugh on the high court.

"We're heading toward a final vote tomorrow, and I'm optimistic," he told NBC News.

Senators voted 51-49 to end debate on Kavanaugh's nomination, setting up a confirmation vote for Saturday afternoon. Three potential swing votes, Sens. Collins, Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) all voted "yes." Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was the lone Republican defection.

"I have been wrestling with whether or not this was about the qualifications of a good man or is this bigger than the nominee and I believe we are dealing with issues right now that are bigger than a nominee," Murkowski told reporters after the vote.

The Senate is expected to vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation Saturday.

Mitch McConnell wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Hill

What Republicans hoped would be a smooth confirmation hearing was thrown into tumult after three women went public with allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh while he was in high school and college.

Kavanaugh offered a fiery defense against the accusations, saying at a hearing last week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the allegations were planned "smears" and part of Democrats' "revenge on behalf of the Clintons."

Flake, who was later joined by Collins, Murkowski and Donnelly, forced the White House to request an FBI inquiry into the allegations by threatening to withhold their votes for his confirmation.

Flake announced earlier Friday he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

The FBI returned the results of a nearly weeklong investigation into the allegations to the Senate on Thursday.

Many Senate Republicans said there was no corroborating evidence for any of the claims against Kavanaugh and have vowed to confirm the nominee in a vote over the weekend.

Flake and Collins first hinted they were leaning toward supporting Kavanaugh after they praised the FBI inquiry as thorough.

The White House also expressed confidence Kavanaugh would be confirmed over the weekend.

"We sure hope so. I think we should," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said when asked by reporters if Kavanaugh has enough votes.

"Moving into the weekend, we certainly hope the Senate will vote to confirm him," she added.

Sanders said the White House has been actively whipping votes for Kavanaugh to help push him over the finish line.

"We've been in constant contact with a number of senators since this process began and we're going to continue those efforts right up until the last minute because this is such an important moment in our country's history," she said earlier in an interview with Fox News.

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