Kavanaugh Clears Crucial Senate Hurdle

kavanaugh vote
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Capitol Hill, Friday. (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

A deeply divided Senate pushed Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination past a key procedural hurdle Friday, setting up a likely final showdown this weekend.

The Senate voted 51-49 to proceed to a final vote, expected to be held as early as Saturday afternoon. With Republicans clinging to a two-vote majority, one Republican voted no and one Democrat voted yes.

Of the four lawmakers who had not revealed their decisions until Friday, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona voted yes, as did Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted not to send the nomination to the full Senate.

Senators might vote differently in the final vote. Collins said she would announce her decision at 3:00 p.m. Friday.

Republicans can afford to lose only one of the swing voters in the final vote, with Vice President Mike Pence as a potential tiebreaking vote.

Republican efforts are complicated by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana), scheduled to be in his home state Saturday for his daughter’s wedding.

The vote occurred against a backdrop of smoldering resentment by partisans on both sides. That fury was reflected openly by thousands of boisterous anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators who bounced around the Capitol complex for days, confronting senators in office buildings and even reportedly near their homes.

On the Senate floor, lawmakers’ comments underscored the lingering bitterness.

“What left-wing groups and their Democratic allies have done to Judge Kavanaugh is nothing short of monstrous,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said on the chamber’s floor before the vote. He accused Democrats of using destructive, unwarranted personal attacks on the nominee and even encouraging the protesters, saying, “They have encouraged mob rule.”

Dianne Feinstein of California, that committee’s top Democrat, said Kavanaugh’s testimony at last week’s dramatic Judiciary panel hearing should “worry us all,” citing “a hostility and belligerence that is unbecoming” of a Supreme Court nominee.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the fight “a sorry epilogue to the brazen theft of Justice Scalia’s seat.” That reflected Democrats’ lasting umbrage over Republicans’ 2016 refusal to even consider Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia.

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