Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is heading to confirmation to the Supreme Court this weekend after two key undecided senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — announced Friday that they would support his elevation to the high court, ending the most divisive confirmation fight in decades.
Ms. Collins’ lengthy speech on the Senate floor dwelled as much on Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record as on the sexual misconduct charges that have consumed his nomination. She did conclude, “We will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence.”
“The Me Too movement is real. It matters. It is needed, and it is long overdue,” she said, arguing that her support for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation does not negate the claims of sexual assault that have flooded forward in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against the nominee. But she said she was not convinced of Judge Kavanaugh’s guilt.
“I found her testimony to be sincere, painful and compelling. I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life. Nevertheless, the four witnesses she named could not corroborate any of the events,” Ms. Collins said.
Mr. Manchin, a Democrat, immediately followed with a statement proclaiming his support.
“I have reservations about this vote given the serious accusations against Judge Kavanaugh and the temperament he displayed in the hearing,” he wrote. “And my heart goes out to anyone who has experienced any type of sexual assault in their life. However, based on all of the information I have available to me, including the recently completed F.B.I. report, I have found Judge Kavanaugh to be a qualified jurist.”
Those decisions came after a dramatic 51-49 procedural vote to limit debate on the nomination — the next-to-last step in the tumultuous Supreme Court confirmation process. A final confirmation vote could come as early as Saturday.
With the Senate and the nation bitterly divided, Judge Kavanaugh’s future came to rest with four undecided senators: three Republicans — Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Ms. Collins — and one Democrat, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. But one by one, they let their positions be known.
Mr. Flake said Friday that he would vote for Judge Kavanaugh “unless something big changes.” Ms. Murkowski broke with her party in voting to block his confirmation, and later delivered an emotional impromptu speech explaining why she had voted against ending debate.
“I believe we’re dealing with issues right now that are bigger than the nominee, and how we ensure fairness and how our legislative and judicial branch can continue to be respected,” she said, choosing her words carefully, her voice filled with emotion.
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SOURCE: New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos