Susan Collins of ME declared Friday she will vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, all but ensuring that a deeply riven Senate will elevate the conservative jurist to the nation's highest court despite allegations that he sexually assaulted women decades ago. Kavanaugh has denied the accusations.
Republicans control the Senate by a meager 51-49 margin, and announcements of support Friday from Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of ME, along with Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, locked in the needed votes. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, announced they, too, would support Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh's confirmation leaves the Senate traumatized with Republicans and Democrats as estranged as at any time in recent memory, reflecting the cavernous divides in the country itself during a presidency that has ignited rare political passions. Both parties are hoping the bitter struggle will energize their most loyal voters to stream to the polls in less than five weeks, when GOP control of the House and perhaps the Senate is in play.
While acknowledging that Blasey Ford's testimony was "sincere, painful and compelling", Collins added: "We will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness".
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described Kavanaugh as a "superstar".
Trump and the Republicans said the probe supported their contention that Ford's allegations were "uncorroborated", but Democrats - and Ford - said the investigation was inadequate.
"There is a special place in hell for women who cover for rapists", she said in an email blast after the vote. "A small but crucial group of lawmakers who'd been on the fence now coming out and saying they will support him putting Kavanaugh on a glidepath to the nation's highest court".
Hours before Senators are set to vote, protesters took to Capital Hill to urge them to vote against Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.
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I mean, I'm heartbroken. "It's sad and I really am torn up about it". "Then I was told the news and I am just really heartbroken". The problem is you guys try to find a reason we lost and the simple reason is we just didn't play good enough.
"I've known Brett Kavanaugh for 18 years, professionally and personally".
"I thought that Susan was incredible yesterday". "I'm also concerned about the impact on the court". Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the only Republican who did not vote to confirm; rather than a "no" vote, she voted "present".
"This hasn't been fair to the judge, but I also recognize that we need to have institutions that are viewed as fair and if people who are victims, people who feel that there is no fairness in our system of government, particularly in our courts, then you've gone down a path that is not good and right for this country", she continued.
Republicans hold a bare 51-49 majority in the Senate.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the vote, called on the sergeant-at-arms to restore order in the gallery, and the women were escorted out.
Ford testified in the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh had drunkenly attacked her at a party when they were teenagers in the early 1980s.
After Ford's allegations, Democrats and their allies became engaged as seldom before, though there were obvious echoes of Thomas' combative confirmation over the sexual harassment accusations of Anita Hill, who worked for him at two federal agencies.
Senates voted 50-48 in favour of his nomination in the historic roll call vote in the Senate chamber this evening, which means Kavanaugh will soon join the court as an associate justice.