Kavanaugh Wins Collins and Manchin’s Votes, Ensuring Confirmation
(Bloomberg) -- Brett Kavanaugh gained enough Senate support Friday to win confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court as Republican Susan Collins said sexual assault allegations against him weren’t strong enough to persuade her to vote no. The Senate plans to vote Saturday.
“I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court,” Collins of Maine said Friday in a Senate floor speech. She broke with fellow moderate Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who opposes the nominee.
Immediately after Collins’ speech, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia issued a statement declaring his support, ensuring 51 votes for President Donald Trump’s second high court nominee in a Senate controlled 51-49 by the GOP.
The bitter fight over Kavanaugh at the height of the "Me Too" movement brought throngs of demonstrators to the Capitol and an outpouring from women on social media who recounted being sexually assaulted and being afraid to tell anyone about it at the time. At a raucous Senate hearing, the nominee harshly criticized Democrats, calling the sexual misconduct allegations part of an "orchestrated political hit" against him.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Twitter, "Thank You @SenatorCollins for standing by your convictions and doing the right thing to confirm Judge Kavanaugh."
Vote Planned Saturday
Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said, “I’m deeply disappointed, I think history will judge this decision harshly.”
Kavanaugh now has enough support to be confirmed in a vote planned for Saturday afternoon.
Manchin is in a tight race for re-election in his home state, where Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 42 percentage points in 2016.
Manchin said he had reservations about Kavanaugh because of the sexual misconduct allegations against him "and the temperament he displayed in the hearing."
But he said he believes Kavanaugh will "determine cases based on the legal findings before him." Manchin added, "I do hope that Judge Kavanaugh will not allow the partisan nature this process took to follow him onto the court."
Earlier Friday, the Senate advanced Kavanaugh’s nomination in a 51-49 procedural vote. The vote came after senators reviewed supplemental FBI reports on interviews the bureau conducted into women’s claims dating to high school and college. Kavanaugh strongly denied the allegations, and his supporters in the Senate said the FBI found no evidence corroborating them.
Republicans are looking for Kavanaugh to cement a conservative majority on the court, while Democrats say they’re alarmed he could provide the fifth vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
Collins said in her floor speech that because of a lack of corroborating evidence, the allegations against Kavanaugh failed to meet a "threshold of more likely than not."
Protecting the right to abortion is important to her, Collins said, adding that Kavanaugh had assured her he viewed Roe and the 1992 Casey ruling that upheld it to be important precedents.
"As the judge asserted to me, a long-established precedent is not something to be trimmed, narrowed, discarded or overlooked" except in extraordinary circumstances, Collins said.
Putting Kavanaugh on the court will give Republicans a victory just weeks before the Nov. 6 election, in which Democrats have a chance to win control of the House and are making a longer shot bid for a Senate majority. Democrats also will campaign on the issue, accusing Republicans of rushing the confirmation without allowing the FBI to conduct a broader investigation.
Democrats sought to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation since soon after Trump nominated him in July. They said he would tilt the court too far to the right. In addition, the administration refused to release more than 100,000 pages of documents related to Kavanaugh’s work in President George W. Bush’s White House, and said they found allegations of sexual misconduct to be credible.
Kavanaugh’s Sept. 27 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in response to the sexual assault allegations left a partisan gulf. Kavanaugh and Democratic senators scowled and shouted at each other as he angrily, and sometimes tearfully, denied the claims.
The American Bar Association said Friday it’s re-examining its "well qualified" rating of Kavanaugh because of "new information of a material nature regarding temperament" during the hearing. In a letter to committee leaders, the association said it didn’t expect to complete the review before the Senate vote.
Kavanaugh would arrive at the Supreme Court with political baggage at a time when justices could take up some of the nation’s most polarizing issues. Kavanaugh could provide the decisive vote to roll back abortion rights, outlaw affirmative action programs and slash environmental regulations. He might be called on to rule on issues stemming from the special counsel investigation of Trump.
Trump nominated Gorsuch last year after Republicans blocked a vote on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016.
The Judiciary Committee last week heard from Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor, who told senators that she’s "one hundred percent" certain Kavanaugh attacked her in 1982 when they were teenagers, describing in detail being held down on a bed while he tried to disrobe her at a drunken high school gathering.
She described "uproarious laughter" by Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh’s who has said he doesn’t recall such an incident. Several other potential witnesses named by Ford said they didn’t recall the gathering she described.
At the urging of Democrats and Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona, the White House agreed to ask the FBI to conduct additional interviews as part of its background report on Kavanaugh. Flake said Friday he will vote to confirm Kavanaugh Saturday "unless something big changed."
The FBI interviewed nine people related to allegations from Ford and Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a drunken party when they were Yale University students.
Lawyers for both women said the FBI didn’t interview people who could have corroborated their accounts. Ramirez’s lawyer, William Pittard, said in a letter that investigators didn’t interview more than 20 witnesses she offered to corroborate her allegation.
The FBI didn’t interview Julie Swetnick, who said Kavanaugh took part in efforts at parties during high school to get girls intoxicated so that groups of boys could have sex with them. Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, called the investigation illegitimate without an inquiry into Swetnick’s claims.
Trump decried “harsh and unfair treatment” of Kavanaugh in a Thursday tweet. After earlier calling Ford’s claim "very credible," the president mocked her testimony at a rally Tuesday in Southaven, Mississippi. Referring to Swetnick, Trump said: “This woman had no clue what was going on, and yet she made the most horrible charges.”
Kavanaugh wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece Thursday that he "might have been too emotional" at last week’s hearing. He said that going forward, he will continue being a judge who is "hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good."
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