WASHINGTON — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) said they will vote for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, making it more likely that his selection will be approved by the Senate in a final vote expected on Saturday.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Collins decried the contentious confirmation process for Kavanaugh, saying, “we have come to the conclusion of a confirmation process that has become so dysfunctional it looks more like a caricature of a gutter-level political campaign than a solemn occasion.”
She and Manchin (D-W. Va.) were regarded as key votes for Kavanaugh’s confirmation after the Senate narrowly voted to move forward with it earlier on Friday.
“I have reservations about this vote given the serious accusations against Judge Kavanaugh and the temperament he displayed in the hearing,” Manchin said in a statement. “However, based on all the information I have available to me, including the recently completed FBI report, I have found Judge Kavanaugh to be a qualified jurist who will follow the Constitution and determine cases based on the legal findings before him.”
In Collins’ speech, she sought to refute concerns that Kavanaugh would threaten women’s rights and LGBT rights, and that he favored a broad scope of presidential powers.
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When it comes to the Supreme Court’s abortion decision, Roe vs. Wade, Collins said Kavanaugh “is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not merely a practice and tradition, but rooted in Article III of our Constitution itself.” The exception, she said, is when a decision is egregiously wrong.
“By any objective measure, Judge Kavanaugh is clearly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court,” she said, while also suggesting that he was more of a centrist than critics maintain.
She criticized what she said was a flood of special interest groups that have lobbied her and other senators to vote against the nomination, saying they “whip their followers into a frenzy.” That was apparent just moments before she spoke, when demonstrators in the Senate gallery shouted at her to vote no.
Collins said when it came to Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh, the “presumption of innocence” weighed on her decision. Ford claimed that he sexually assaulted her when they were in high school at a party, a claim he vigorously denies.
“I found her testimony to be sincere, painful, and compelling. I believe that she is a survivor of sexual assault and this trauma has upended her life,” she said. But she added that none of the four witnesses she named could corroborate her claims. She also criticized other allegations made against him. Without naming her, she cited Julie Swetnick’s claims that Kavanaugh drugged women who were then sexually assaulted. Swetnick is a client of attorney Michael Avenatti.
“Some of the allegations levied against Judge Kavanaugh illustrate why the presumption of innocence is so important,” Collins said.
Collins said “fairness would dictate that the claims should at least meet a threshold of more likely than not,” but the allegations “fail to meet the more likely than not standard.”
Earlier on Friday, Manchin crossed party lines on the procedural vote to move forward, voting on the cloture motion and joining Republicans in a 51-49 majority. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) joined Democrats and independents in voting against the procedural motion.
The debate over the nomination has triggered other disruptive protests on Capitol Hill. At least a dozen demonstrators were arrested on Friday, and more than 300 were detained on Thursday.
Collins also rejected the idea that Senate approval of Kavanaugh would mean that lawmakers were condoning sexual assault.
“The #MeToo movement is real. It matters. It is needed and it is long overdue,” she said.
As Manchin talked to reporters at the Capitol about his vote, demonstrators surrounded him, shouting, “Look at us. Look at us.”
“I believe Dr. Ford,” Manchin said. “Something happened to Dr. Ford. I don’t believe the facts show that it was Brett Kavanaugh, but I believe something happened.”