Senate votes 51-49 to send Kavanaugh nomination to final floor vote on Saturday

The Guardian – By Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington – Fri 05 Oct 2018

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Photo: West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, right, was the only Democrat to vote yes. Photograph: Pablo Martínez Monsiváis/AP.

Republicans in the US Senate, with the help of a lone Democrat, have voted to advance Brett Kavanaugh to a final floor vote, propelling the embattled federal judge one step closer to the supreme court.

Faced with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and concerns over his impartiality, Kavanaugh cleared a key procedural hurdle on Friday in a narrow 51-49 vote that fell sharply along party lines. The outcome paved the way for a final vote as early as Saturday.

It nonetheless remained unclear if Donald Trump’s pick for America’s highest court would ultimately have the votes to be confirmed.

A handful of key senators tipped their hand in Friday’s procedural motion but signaled their votes were not cast in stone.

Two of the chamber’s closely watched moderate Republicans, senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine, voted in favor of advancing Kavanaugh, while Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the judge. Joe Manchin, a senator up for re-election in conservative West Virginia, was the lone Democrat to break with his party.

Murkowski told reporters the vote on Kavanaugh was among “the most difficult evaluation[s]” of her career.

“I believe he is a good man,” she told reporters, while adding: “He’s not the right man for the court at this time.”

Flake, who last week called for the additional FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh, said he would vote to confirm the judge. Kavanaugh denies the allegations.

Collins told reporters she would not be announcing her final decision until later Friday afternoon, reinforcing the high stakes of a nomination that has drawn attention from across the country and around the world.

Kavanaugh was nominated by Trump in July to replace the retiring justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who often acted as a swing vote on issues ranging from LGBT rights to abortion. If confirmed to the lifetime post, Kavanaugh would shift the court in a staunchly conservative direction for decades to come.

“From start to finish, 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,” Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said in remarks on the floor ahead of Friday’s vote.

“When future Americans look back at these proceedings, let them draw no lessons from the Senate’s conduct here,” he added.

“Let them look back on this chapter as the shameful culmination of the scorched-earth politics practiced by the hard right in America – people who will stop at nothing to entrench an advantage on our nation’s courts.”

In his own remarks from the Senate floor, Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the controversy over Kavanaugh’s nomination as part of an orchestrated campaign by Democrats and liberal activists.

“Before the ink had dried on Justice Kennedy’s retirement, our Democratic colleagues made it perfectly clear what this process would be about: delay, obstruct and resist,” McConnell said.

“And before the ink had dried on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, colleagues across the aisle – including Democrat members of the judiciary committee – were racing to announce they’d made up their minds and were totally opposed to his confirmation.”

The demonstrations surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination have been unprecedented.

Thousands of protesters, many of them survivors of sexual assault, flocked to the nation’s capital in recent days with a final appeal to lawmakers to reject Kavanaugh. More than 300 were arrested on Thursday after overtaking one of the buildings that houses the offices of several US senators.

Trump denounced the protesters in a Friday morning tweet claiming, without evidence, that they had been hired by liberal organizers.

“The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it!” the president wrote.

Trump and Republicans have stood squarely behind Kavanaugh and insisted an FBI investigation into the allegations against him cleared the judge of any wrongdoing. Democrats, meanwhile, condemned the investigation, the results of which were made available to senators on Thursday, as preordained and dictated by the White House.

Investigators did not interview Kavanaugh or Dr Christine Blasey Ford, the research psychologist who alleged he attempted to rape her when the two were teenagers in the early 1980s. Ford’s legal team complained that several witnesses who could help corroborate her account were not contacted. Deborah Ramirez, a second accuser who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while the two attended Yale, voiced similar frustration.
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A single physical copy of the confidential FBI report was made available for all 100 members of the Senate to review and kept in a secure room typically used for information sharing in classified settings. The 46-page report included summaries of the FBI’s interviews with nine witnesses.

As lawmakers processed the FBI’s findings, Kavanaugh was also forced to fend off criticism of his temperament.

On the eve of Friday’s vote, the retired supreme court justice John Paul Stevens said Kavanaugh’s strikingly partisan tone while denying the allegations against him before the Senate judiciary committee last week should disqualify him.

“His performance in the hearings changed my mind,” said Stevens, a lifelong Republican. “The senators should pay attention to this.”

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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