Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight

The Senate is set to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court during a rare Saturday session, marking the end of a deeply partisan and rancorous fight that has rocked some senators' confidence in the upper chamber.

The vote is expected to hand President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE and Senate Republicans their second Supreme Court justice in as many years and deliver a significant victory a month before a midterm election where control of Congress hangs in the balance.

"The mob was not able to intimidate the Senate. We stood up to the mob. We did the right thing for a good man and filled a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill McGrath campaign staffers to join union Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Ky.) said while taking an early victory lap during an appearance Friday night on Fox News.

The Senate voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday morning. Under the chamber’s rules senators can debate the nomination for an additional 30 hours, making a final confirmation vote tentatively scheduled for around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

ADVERTISEMENT

The final vote comes two days after the FBI handed over its report on the sexual misconduct allegations that threw Kavanaugh’s vote into chaos. Democrats argued the White House limited and undercut the FBI report; Republicans countered that it showed no corroboration to the sexual assault allegation from Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s first accuser.

Absent an eleventh-hour surprise in a confirmation fight beset for weeks by unexpected twists, Kavanaugh has locked down the votes needed to be confirmed after three key undecided senators announced on Friday that they would support him.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRomney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention Susan Collins signals she won't campaign against Biden Graham challenger Harrison raises record-shattering .9 million for SC Senate bid MORE (R-Maine), in a widely watched floor speech on Friday afternoon, gave Kavanaugh his crucial 50th Senate vote.

Collins said while she believed that Ford had been assaulted, if senators rejected Kavanaugh over uncorroborated accusations it would be "hugely damaging to this confirmation process."

"This debate is complicated further by the fact that the Senate confirmation process is not a trial ... but certain fundamental legal principles about due process, the presumption of innocence and fairness do bear on my thinking and I cannot abandon them," Collins said.

Her announcement came hours after Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Ariz.) confirmed that he would vote for Kavanaugh. Shortly after Collins’s announcement, Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGeorge Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff Energy companies cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline Trump nominee faces Senate hurdles to securing public lands post MORE (D-W.Va.) said that he would also support Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Manchin, who is running for reelection in a state Trump won by 42 points in 2016, is the only Democrat expected to support Kavanaugh on Saturday. Manchin was one of three Democrats last year to support Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first nominee to the high court.

With Republicans holding a one-seat majority, they could have lost one Republican senator before they needed help from Democrats to confirm Kavanaugh.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRomney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention Senators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (R-Alaska) on Friday evening became the only Republican senator to say that she would oppose Kavanaugh.

"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 during a speech on the Senate floor on Friday night.

She added that she kept going back to 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 appearance of impropriety has become unavoidable," she said, referencing Kavanaugh's combative testimony before the Judiciary Committee in which he repeatedly clashed with Democratic members of the panel.

Murkowski said that while she opposed Kavanaugh's nomination, she would have her vote be marked as "present" as a courtesy to offset the absence of fellow GOP Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesHealth care group launches M ad campaign hitting Trump in battleground states The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory Senate outlook slides for GOP MORE (Mont.). Daines, who said he planned to vote for Kavanaugh, left Washington, D.C., on Friday to fly to Montana for his daughter’s wedding on Saturday.

The Alaska Republican is planning to “pair” her vote with Daines, which will let her initially vote “no,” and then withdraw that and change her vote to “present.” The maneuver keeps the vote margin for Kavanaugh’s confirmation the same as if Daines were there for the vote.

The months-long fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination marks one of the most bitter and partisan Supreme Court battles in recent history. Even with Murkowski voting “present,” the final vote margin for Kavanaugh is expected to be the narrowest since Stanley Matthews was confirmed in a 24-23 vote in 1881.

Democrats don’t have the ability to block Kavanaugh’s nomination on their own. But they spent Friday night into Saturday using a rare all-night floor session to lash out at how Republicans have handled Kavanaugh and the sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrat asks Barr to preserve any records tied to environmental hacking probe Democrats warn Biden against releasing SCOTUS list Key Democrat accuses Labor head of 'misleading' testimony on jobless benefits MORE (D-R.I.) called Republicans' tactics against Ford a “relentless, indirect bank shot smear.”

But Kavanaugh’s nomination had already spiraled into a partisan brawl before Ford came forward last month with her accusation that Kavanaugh, who denies wrongdoing, sexually assaulted her during a high school party in the early 1980s.

Democrats and their progressive allies had raised the alarm over a myriad of issues where they worry that Kavanaugh will provide conservatives a fifth vote, including abortion and potentially protecting Trump from any court cases that spawn out of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation into potential collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

“He should have announced that he would recuse himself from any case involving the president who appointed him,” Sen. Angus KingAngus KingThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Reid Wilson says political winners are governors who listened to scientists and public health experts; 12 states record new highs for seven-day case averages McConnell on filibuster talk: Democrats want to 'vandalize' Senate rules Manchin draws line against repealing legislative filibuster MORE (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, said during the Senate’s all-night session.