A bitterly divided U.S. Senate on Friday advanced Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination to a final vote, but it was still unclear if he will have enough support to be placed on the high court.
Two key senators – one Republican and one Democrat – who voted to end debate have not said whether they will back confirmation in a vote expected Saturday afternoon.
The final vote is not just the chance for Republicans to shift the court to the right for what could be decades, but is also a test of how public officials respond to the raw emotions unleashed by the allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh as part of the #MeToo movement.
A main reason Republicans voted for President Donald Trump – to put conservatives on the court – is also at stake, as is control of Congress in the midterm elections.
Confirmation would require 51 votes – or a 50-50 vote with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie. The Senate is split with 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats.
If Pence is needed to get Kavanaugh over the finish line, it would be the first time a vice president has cast the deciding vote for a Supreme Court nominee.
Senators voted 51 to 49 to end debate with two lawmakers crossing party lines.
“Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting “YES” to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!” Trump tweeted.
White House officials were working the phones, but wouldn’t say whether Trump himself has spoken to individual senators.
“We continue to stay in regular contact,” said spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. “The president supports his nominee, and wants him to be confirmed.”
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the only Republican to vote against Kavanaugh, called it one of the most difficult decisions of her career.
“I believe that Brett Kavanaugh is a good man, I believe he is a good man,” Murkowski said after the vote. “But it just may be that, in my view, he’s not the right man for the court at this time.”
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin was the only Democrat to vote to end debate, giving a thumbs up when his name was called. He has not said whether he will vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
About two hours before the vote, Manchin headed to the secure basement room inside the Capitol complex to continuing reviewing the 46-page FBI report on Kavanaugh and the charges of sexual assault made by Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez.
Reporters pounced, asking Manchin if he’d made up his mind. He said he hadn’t. He kept walking.
Two of the Republican holdouts – Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona – had seemed satisfied Thursday with the report.
Both backed ending debate and Flake said he will vote for confirmation unless something significant changes.
Collins said she will announce her decision Friday afternoon.
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Source: USA Today