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Kavanaugh secures votes needed for Senate confirmation

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday secured the support needed for Senate confirmation, setting the stage for a final vote on Saturday that will cap a fiercely partisan months-long battle over his nomination.

Kavanaugh gained the crucial backing of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the only Democrat to back President Trump’s pick to succeed former Justice Anthony Kennedy.

“Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have far fewer 5-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our judiciary and our highest court is restored,” Collins said in a Senate floor speech, surrounded by roughly two dozen of her GOP colleagues. “I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

Manchin announced his position just minutes after Collins’s speech.

“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, who is up for reelection in a state Trump won by double digits, said in a statement. “I do hope that Judge Kavanaugh will not allow the partisan nature this process took to follow him onto the court.”

Collins and Manchin give Kavanaugh his 50th and 51st supporter ahead of Saturday’s final vote, securing the simple majority needed to be confirmed.

Kavanaugh is on track to be confirmed by the narrowest margin since 1881, when the Senate approved Stanley Matthews's nomination in a 24-23 vote.

Collins and Manchin were among four key senators who had not announced their positions heading into Friday’s 10:30 a.m. vote on whether to proceed with the Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who is retiring after 2018, said after the morning vote that he will back Kavanaugh on Saturday.

GOP leadership said they view Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as a likely “no” vote after she became the only Republican senator to vote against moving forward with Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Murkowski, who isn’t up for reelection until 2022, has earned a reputation for having an independent streak that includes voting against the GOP ObamaCare repeal effort and the nomination of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The Alaska Republican told reporters that she “wrestled” with Kavanaugh’s nomination but felt that the debate had become larger than just deciding if Trump’s pick was qualified.

"I believe that Brett Kavanaugh is a good man,” she said. “I believe he is a good man, it just may be that in my view he's not the right man for the court at this time."

Her opposition to Kavanaugh won’t be enough to sink his nomination on Saturday, assuming there isn’t a final twist in the chaotic fight over Kavanaugh.

Republicans hold a slim 51-seat majority in the Senate. If Murkowski votes “no,” they can still afford to lose one GOP senator since Manchin has crossed the aisle.

The support from Manchin and Collins also could allow Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.) to skip a return trip to Washington after attending his daughter’s wedding in Montana on Saturday. Daines left after the Friday morning vote but said Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) had offered him a plane if Republicans needed to hold the vote open for him to get Kavanaugh confirmed.

“We’re going to have a new Supreme Court justice this weekend and I’m going to get to walk my daughter down the aisle,” Daines told reporters on Friday, adding that the situation was “covered.”

No Democrat besides Manchin is expected to vote for Kavanaugh. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) — who, like Manchin, supported Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch — voted against advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday morning.

Democrats have taken to the Senate floor on Friday to argue why they believe Kavanaugh should not be confirmed.

"President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court will go down as one of the saddest, most sordid chapters in the long history of the federal judiciary," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

"The well was poisoned from the outset, when Present Trump selected Judge Kavanaugh from a list of names pre-approved by hard right special interest groups, for whom the national interest is a trifling concern compared to repealing Roe v. Wade, cutting people’s health care, and achieving a partisan majority on the Supreme Court," he added.

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