With the procedural vote for the Kavanaugh nomination scheduled for Friday October 5, and a final vote expected as early as Saturday, the nation has been waiting to hear from five senators on how they’ll vote. With a 51-49 majority in the Senate, the GOP can’t stand to lose many votes if they want to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.
While most seem to have already made up their minds before the FBI investigation, we’ve been waiting to hear from Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Joe Manchin III (D-WV). A straight party-line vote would result in a 51-49 confirmation, and if none of these five voted, it would be 48-47. But, where will those who have been on the fence cast their votes?
As a pro-choice Republican, Senator Collins has held a crucial vote in this confirmation process. “A candidate for this important position who would overturn Roe v. Wade would not be acceptable to me because that would indicate an activist agenda that I don’t want to see a judge have,” she told ABC.
But Kavanaugh has claimed that he considers the case settled law, and so her vote now seems to hinge on whether she believes the judge’s accusers. After reviewing the FBI’s report, however, Sen. Collins might just be a yes. She didn’t say that she would vote for him, but she did tell reporters that she felt the probe was very thorough.
Senator Heitkamp had been undecided, but she recently released a statement announcing that she had made her decision.
“I will be voting against confirming U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. As I said after Judge Kavanaugh was nominated, and as I’ve continued to say throughout this process, I consider vetting nominees to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court as one of the most important jobs of any U.S. senator—and I take that job very seriously. That’s what North Dakotans expect of their senators, which is why I met with Judge Kavanaugh, closely watched his hearings, and reviewed his available record during this evaluation process—including the nonpartisan FBI investigation which I called for. After doing my due diligence and now that the record is apparently closed, I will vote against this confirmation.”
One might wonder why any Democrat would appear on the “maybe list” after the antics of the Dems on the Judiciary Committee. Hailing from North Dakota, a fairly red state, Senator Heitkamp is up for reelection this November, and she’s trailing behind the Republican contender, Rep. Kevin Cramer. Republicans in her home state have already begun criticizing her heavily, many saying that she has failed North Dakota.
Senate Republicans had hoped to count on her vote, as she also voted for Judge Gorsuch last year.
Senator Jeff Flake was the man who cast the deciding vote in the Judiciary Committee hearing to advance Judge Kavanaugh to the full Senate, and he was the first one who made his vote dependent on an FBI investigation. After reviewing the report, Sen. Flake has said that he is satisfied with it and that it contains no additional corroboration. While he didn’t come straight out and say that he would vote for Kavanaugh, he did remind reporters that he had planned to vote for him before the investigation. It stands to reason, then, that if he was satisfied with the report, he’ll vote to confirm.
However, Jeff Flake is in a unique position. He’s not running for reelection, and therefore seems to have little to lose, with one foot out the door already. Jeff Flake seems to be a yes vote, but he might still prove to be the wildcard.
Joe Manchin III
Democrat Joe Manchin III also faces a tough reelection and might lose his seat to a Republican in November. Along with Senator Heitkamp, he also voted for Gorsuch. He viewed the report Thursday afternoon, but left and said he would come back tomorrow. His vote is still undecided, it seems.
Manchin was confronted by a protester afterward who claimed to be a rape survivor. She asked him how he could look her in the eye when he was planning to vote yes on Kavanaugh. He responded, “How do you know how I’m gonna vote?” He then said he couldn’t tell her how he planned to vote because he had not yet decided. If a Democrat would look a rape survivor in the eye and say that he hasn’t yet decided how to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, then there’s a good chance he really hasn’t.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska had very little to say on the report itself Thursday afternoon. She intends to read more of it on Friday, and said that she wasn’t “wasting any daylight here,” which seems to mean that she doesn’t have time for speculation or to give a statement until she has a chance to read the report in its entirety.
Sen. Murkowski did, however, confirm that she agrees with Sen. Susan Collins, who said that she doesn’t consider Brett Kavanaugh a threat to Roe v. Wade. As another pro-choice Republican, her initial concern that he might try to overturn that ruling cast doubt as to where her vote would fall.
Up in the Air
While Senator Heidi Heitkamp did officially declare herself against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the other four undecided voters seem to be keeping their cards close. It’s quite likely they won’t reveal their hands until the actual vote. A dramatically satisfying course of action, perhaps, but it doesn’t give us very much solid ground to build on.
With all other Democrats openly voting against Kavanaugh, my guess would be that Sen. Manchin will also vote against. Unless every GOP Senator votes for the confirmation, Manchin would risk being the one Democrat to ruin his party’s plan should he vote in favor of Kavanaugh.
Senators Collins and Flake will both probably side with Kavanaugh, though again, Flake might surprise us.
While Murkowski’s vote is still anyone’s guess, ultimately, it might not matter much if everyone else votes as expected. There are 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats plus Independents who tend to vote with Democrats. If Murkowski votes for confirmation, that’s 51-49. If she abstains from the vote, that’s 50-49 – still a simple majority of those who voted. Even if she votes with the Democrats, that’s a 50-50 tie, which Vice President Mike Pence would have to break. It’s probably safe to bet he would vote yes.
Unless two of our three Republican “maybes” vote against Kavanaugh, it’s a done deal – regardless of what the Democrats do.