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Susan Collins Ends the Suspense, Says She’ll Vote to Confirm Kavanaugh

Slate logo Slate 10/5/2018 Josh Voorhees
a woman standing in front of a building © Provided by The Slate Group LLC

And so ends what little suspense remained. Republican Sen. Susan Collins announced Friday afternoon that she intends to vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, all but guaranteeing Mitch McConnell at least the 50th vote he needs to give Donald Trump’s nominee a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

“We’ve heard a lot of charges and countercharges about Judge Kavanaugh, but as those who have known him best have attested, he has been an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband, and father,” she said during a lengthy speech on the Senate floor, which began after a brief interruption from anti-Kavanaugh protesters in the gallery. “Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have far fewer 5-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our judiciary and our highest court is restored.” She then finished: “I will vote to confirm judge Kavanaugh.”

Collins was one of 51 senators—50 Republicans and one Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin—who voted Friday morning to cut off debate on confirmation, a procedural maneuver that cleared the way for a final vote, tentatively set for Saturday evening. (Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski was the lone Republican to vote against cloture.) At the time, though, Collins told reporters that she would make an announcement this afternoon about her ultimate decision regarding confirmation, which left the door open ever so slightly that she might, just might, vote against Kavanaugh when it mattered most. Collins has now slammed that door shut.

Vice President Mike Pence was ready to deliver the tie-breaking vote for Kavanaugh in the event the Senate split 50-50. Technically, then, Collins alone couldn’t have kept Kavanaugh off the high court. However, it was painfully clear that Manchin never wanted to cast the deciding vote, so if Collins would have flipped, that would have given Manchin cover to do the same. Now, even if the West Virginia Democrat were to side with the rest of his party and vote against confirmation on Saturday, it wouldn’t be enough to block it.

Despite all the speculation and suspense, the GOP math was always pretty simple. With a 51-49 majority, Republicans needed to limit their defections to just one. The three usual suspects quickly emerged as Democrats’ best bets: Murkowski, Collins, and retiring Sen. Jeff Flake. The three teamed up last Friday to force their party to allow the FBI to conduct a limited investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. After viewing the FBI report on Thursday, though, Collins and Flake appeared ready to get this thing over with. Now, they effectively have.

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