Murkowski says she opposes Kavanaugh's nomination, but will vote 'present'

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law There is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections Trump sold off the Arctic Refuge — Congress must end this risky boondoggle MORE (R-Alaska) said Friday evening that she opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, becoming the only Republican senator to come out against President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE's nominee.

"I will be a no tomorrow," Murkowski said in a speech on the Senate floor after describing how she had come to lean against voting to confirm Trump's second nominee to the high court in a final vote on Saturday.

But Murkowski said that in the final tally she would ask that her vote be recorded as "present," saying she was doing it as a courtesy to Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesHillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two Senate Judiciary Committee to debate key antitrust bill Overnight Defense & National Security — No punishments in botched Kabul drone strike MORE (R-Mont.), who is slated to attend his daughter's wedding back home on Saturday.

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"I do this because a friend, a colleague of ours is in Montana this evening and ... he's going to be walking his daughter down the aisle and he won't be present to vote," Murkowski said. "I have extended this as a courtesy to my friend. It will not change the outcome of the vote." 

The move described by Murkowski is known as "pairing" a vote, which will allow her to initially vote "no" on Saturday but then withdraw her vote and change it to "present."

Murkowski announced her decision hours after it became clear that Kavanaugh had enough votes to be confirmed.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law The Hill's Morning Report - US warns Kremlin, weighs more troops to Europe Democrats face scaled-back agenda after setbacks MORE (R-Maine) announced during her own speech on the Senate floor earlier Friday that she would back his nomination ahead of a final vote set for Saturday afternoon.

Collins's support gave Republicans the necessary 50 votes to allow Vice President Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote if necessary. Collins was soon joined by Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinEven working piecemeal, Democrats need a full agenda for children Poll: 30 percent of Americans say they approve of the job Congress is doing Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE (D-W.Va.), who said he would vote for Kavanaugh, giving him the support of 51 senators.

Murkowski said Friday night that she agreed with many of Collins's comments defending Kavanaugh, saying she didn't think he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade or represented a threat to protections for people with preexisting conditions.

But she indicated that her confidence in his nomination was not high enough to bring herself to vote for him, given controversy swirling around allegations of sexual assault leveled against the nominee in recent weeks.

The Alaska senator acknowledged that it appeared that Kavanaugh would be seated on the Supreme Court "without my vote."

Murkowski, who voted against ending debate on Kavanaugh earlier in the day Friday, said during her speech on the Senate floor that she "was leaning toward supporting Judge Kavanaugh in his nomination" based on his record as a circuit court judge and lawyer. 

"But we know that in our role of advice and consent, it is not just the record itself. There is more that is attached to it," she added, mentioning "matters of temperament" and "demeanor."

She pointed to Kavanaugh's combative testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week while referencing the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which says that judges should act in a way at all times that upholds the "public confidence" and avoids "the appearance of impropriety."

"After the hearing that we watched last week, last Thursday, it .... was becoming clearer that that appearance of impropriety has become unavoidable," she said.

Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his first accuser, testified before the Judiciary Committee last week in a rollercoaster hearing that left many senators slamming the Senate process surrounding Kavanaugh's nomination.

"I believe that Judge Kavanaugh is a good man. He's a good man. ... But, in my conscience, because that's how I have to vote ... I could not conclude that he is the right person for the court at this time," Murkowski said. 

She called the bitter nomination process for Kavanaugh "horrible" and "gut-wrenching," saying it had left "good people ... needlessly hurt."

"We must do better by them. We must do better as a legislative branch," she added. "We have an obligation, a moral obligation, to do better than this." 

Updated: 9:05 p.m.