Heitkamp to vote 'no' on Kavanaugh

Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (N.D.) said on Thursday that she will oppose Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Heitkamp's decision, which she first announced to North Dakota TV station WDAY, comes less than a day after the FBI wrapped up its investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. 

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Heitkamp, who is running for reelection in a state won by Trump, said a public hearing where Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his first accuser, testified raised questions about Kavanaugh's "current temperament, honesty, and impartiality" and has "furthered a national discussion about stopping sexual assault."

"Our actions right now are a poignant signal to young girls and women across our country. I will continue to stand up for them," Heitkamp said. 

Heitkamp pointed to her work as the attorney general for North Dakota implementing the Violence Against Women Act. She said that she also thought Ford "gave heartfelt, credible and persuasive testimony." 

"When I listened to Dr. Ford testify, I heard the voices of women I have known throughout my life who have similar stories of sexual assault and abuse. Countless North Dakotans and others close to me have since reached out and told me their stories of being raped or sexually assaulted – and expressed the same anguish and fear," she said.  

The decision marks a shift for Heitkamp, who was one of three Democrats to support Neil Gorsuch, President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE's first nominee. Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyGinsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle Watchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world MORE (D-Ind.) has announced his opposition to Kavanaugh, while Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test MORE (D-W.Va.) remains undecided.

Heitkamp, who is running for reelection in a state Trump handily won in 2016, has been tightlipped about her thinking on Kavanaugh, declining to speak with reporters on Wednesday or Thursday.

The decision comes as two recent polls have shown Heitkamp trailing in her reelection bid against Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP senator blocks Armenian genocide resolution Trump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Schumer briefs Democrats on impeachment trial 'mechanics' MORE (R-N.D.). A Fox News poll showed that 53 percent of likely voters in North Dakota back Cramer, while 41 percent support Heitkamp, who is considered among the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection.

Cramer came under fire last month when he questioned whether the sexual assault allegations should “disqualify” Kavanaugh “even if it’s all true" because they happened decades go. 

Republicans likely don't need Heitkamp to ultimately get Kavanaugh confirmed. They have a 51-seat majority, meaning they can lose one GOP senator before they need help from Democrats.

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days The Hill's Morning Report - Dem impeachment report highlights phone records MORE (Alaska) remain undeclared on their support or opposition to the nominee. Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ariz.) previously said he would support Kavanaugh and is expected to be a yes vote absent an eleventh hour bombshell stemming from the FBI report.

—Updated at 3:05 p.m.