Republican Sen. Susan Collins on Friday said she would vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, ending months of speculation from the crucial swing senator.
“Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” Collins said at the very end of a nearly 45-minute long speech on the Senate floor.
Minutes after Collins’ speech concluded, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said that he, too, would vote for Kavanaugh.
“Based on all of 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,” Manchin said.
“I had to deal with the facts I had in front of me,” Manchin told reporters over shouts of “Shame!” from protesters in the hallway.
Collins revealed her decision Friday afternoon, hours after a key procedural vote in the confirmation process.
Collins voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination in the 51-49 vote, which saw divisions largely along party lines. The only exceptions were Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who voted no, and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who voted yes.
Collins’ remarks on the Senate floor Friday afternoon, scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET, were initially delayed after protestors began shouting in the Senate gallery, chanting “Vote No! Show up for Maine women!”
She began her lengthy speech by tearing into the hyper-politicized nomination process, calling it a “caricature of a gutter-level political campaign.”
She also distanced herself in the speech from the partisan cloud hanging over Kavanaugh.
“I’ve never considered the president’s identity or party when evaluating Supreme Court nominations,” she said, noting that she had voted for nominees appointed by presidents of both major parties.
Collins has held her decision on Kavanaugh’s candidacy close to the vest throughout the nomination process. But she has not always kept silent on her opinion of the judge and the other political leaders involved in the process.
Her view of Kavanaugh appeared to lean in his favor in August after her one-on-one meeting with the appellate judge. The moderate senator from Maine, who is pro-choice, told reporters that Kavanaugh assured that he viewed Roe v. Wade — the perennially controversial abortion ruling — as “settled law.”
But after Kavanaugh was accused of past sexual misconduct by multiple women in mid-September, Collins was circumspect. “I don’t know enough to make a judgment at this point,” she told reporters at the time.
And she criticized President Donald Trump after he mocked one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, at a rally following her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Trump’s derisive imitation of the testimony was “just plain wrong,” Collins said.
Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations against him.
In her Senate speech Friday, Collins also devoted significant time to discussing the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh, including an in-depth evaluation of the evidence and the witnesses who came forward to testify for and against the judge.
“Every person, man or woman, who makes a charge of sexual assault deserves to be heard and treated with respect,” she said. “The #MeToo movement is real. It matters. It is needed, and long overdue.”
She concluded, however, that the allegations failed to meet the proper standard of evidence, and “therefore I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court.”
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