Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh stands just one supportive senator short of confirmation on Friday after clearing a dramatic procedural hurdle in a 51-49 vote.
The Senate voted to advance Kavanaugh to a final vote mostly along party lines, though Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted “no” and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted “yes.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) indicated after the vote that he would remain a yes on President Donald Trump’s nominee “unless something big changed,” meaning that either Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) or Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — the two remaining undecided votes — would effectively give Kavanaugh the confirmation he and his party have fought fiercely to win
Even so, Kavanaugh’s approval is not assured: Senators could conceivably vote differently on Saturday during an expected confirmation vote than they did on Friday, and Collins is expected to deliver a speech on where she stands later on Friday.
Most senators sat at their desk as the dramatic roll call unfolded, with major suspense over where Murkowski, Manchin and Flake would land. Collins was the first swing vote to support Kavanaugh on the procedural roll call, quickly followed by Flake. Murkowski then inaudibly voted no, a jarring defection that left Republicans with no room for error.
After it was clear that Kavanaugh had the 50 votes needed to advance, Manchin became Kavanaugh’s only Democratic supporter. Manchin, who left the chamber when the clerk called his name, came back into the chamber and voted in favor of Kavanaugh. His phone could be seen ringing and Manchin stared at it as the vote continued.
If both Flake and Collins vote no, then Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination will be defeated. Likewise, if Manchin votes against confirmation. But if Flake votes yes and Collins votes no, and both Murkoswki and Manchin stay in their respective columns, then there will be a 50-50 tie and the vice president will have to be called in to cast the deciding vote.
If he does, it would be the first time in the history of the Supreme Court that a vice president has cast a deciding tiebreaker vote for confirmation.