(RNN) – In a dramatic 50-minute speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she will vote yes on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, giving supporters a 51-49 advantage in the deeply divided body.
“My hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work on the court to heal those divisions,” Collins said. “I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”
“I’ve never considered the president’s identity or party when evaluating Supreme Court nominations,” Collins said. She pointed out that she voted to confirm John Roberts, who was nominated by George W. Bush, Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who were nominated by Barack Obama, and Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by Pres. Donald Trump.
As Collins began her speech, protesters chanted “vote no” from the gallery.
Her decision came despite claims of sexual misconduct against the High Court nominee.
“I do not believe these charges prohibit Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court,” Collins said. She went on to say that sexual assault is a large problem in this country, calling it “pervasive.”
Collins also said that the #metoo movement is real, and every survivor should be heard.
“I called for and supported the additional hearing. I pushed for and supported the FBI’s supplemental background investigation,” the senator said. “Since the hearing, I have listened to many survivors of sexual assault. Many have told me their stories for the first time in their lives.”
But Collins also questioned the motives of those opposed the Kavanaugh nomination, including those who pushed for Christine Blasey Ford to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Watching her, I could not help but feel that some people who were engineering the derailing this nomination cared very little for her (Dr. Ford) at all.”
The day on Capitol Hill was filled with political drama.
Another Republican senator was a “no” Friday on moving Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court forward, but three other key senators’ “yes” votes were enough to set up a final referendum to confirm the embattled nominee.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the lone GOP holdout in the procedural vote, known as cloture. She also said she will vote against his confirmation, meaning the GOP can’t lose another of its senators and have enough to get Kavanaugh confirmed in a party-line vote .
Murkowski told reporters after the vote, “I did not come to a decision on this until walking into the floor this morning.”
“In my view, he’s not the best man for the court at this time,” she said of Kavanaugh. “This has truly been the most difficult evaluation of a decision that I have ever had to make.”
Collins said minutes before voting began on cloture that she was a “yes” on moving forward. Her decision brought the tally to 51 in favor, 49 against.
She was joined by GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who faces a re-election battle in a conservative-leaning state.
Flake indicated Friday afternoon that he was a “yes” on the confirmation vote unless “something big changes.” Manchin also said he’ll vote to confirm Kavanaugh, calling him a “qualified jurist.”
The confirmation vote, which may come as soon as Saturday, will be preceded by up to 30 hours of debate on the Senate floor.
Senate leaders for both parties continued to argue their sides before the cloture vote. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made the Democrats’ arguments for opposing the appointment, including questions on credibility and temperament in the wake of Kavanaugh’s testimony. The nominee himself described it as “too emotional” at times in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was indignant in his response to Democrats, pointing to a limited FBI investigation that he said found no corroboration of the multiple sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh.
Sen. Chuck Grassley released some details of the FBI report on the accusations against President Donald Trump’s high court nominee, which only senators and their staff have been allowed to view. Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent an executive summary of the investigation to media outlets and reporters late Thursday night.
It revealed that the FBI this week reached out to 11 people, 10 of whom were interviewed.
Six of those people were related to Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a suburban Maryland house when the two were teenagers in the 1980s.
The other four were related to Deborah Ramirez’s accusation that Kavanaugh exposed himself and pushed his genitals into her face at a party while the two were students at Yale University.
The FBI notably did not speak either to Ford or Kavanaugh, reportedly because they did not have White House approval to do so.
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