Susan Collins ended the drama of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court just before 4 p.m. Eastern time Friday.
That’s the moment when, after a looooooong speech explaining her thought process, the Maine Republican senator announced she would support Kavanaugh in the final vote on Saturday.
“My fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so we have far fewer 5-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our judiciary and our highest court is restored,” Collins said, before delivering the final line of her about 45-minute floor speech: “Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”
Collins became the 50th Republican to support Kavanaugh, meaning that, if necessary, Vice President Mike Pence could break the tie in his favor in tomorrow’s final vote. (Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is expected to be the lone Republican to vote against Kavanaugh). Immediately following Collins’ speech, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia said in a statement that he would vote “yes” as well.
Collins’ “yes” effectively ends a process that began in early July, when President Donald Trump announced that Kavanaugh was his pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh’s confirmation seemed to be on a glide path until two weeks ago, when a woman named Christine Blasey Ford came forward alleging that the judge had sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers.
After another hearing – in which Ford and Kavanaugh both insisted they were 100% certain that the attack had and had not occurred, respectively – and a five-day-long FBI investigation into the charges, Kavanaugh is set to make it to the nation’s highest court sometime late Saturday afternoon.
His ascension is a major victory for Trump, who ran on the idea that electing him meant the chance to fundamentally reshape the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court. By putting Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch on the bench, Trump has done that before he is even halfway through his term. The Supreme Court is now solidly 5-4 in favor of conservatives – and could be for years (or decades) to come.
It is also a major victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who never wavered in pushing for Kavanaugh’s confirmation even amid the chaos that defined the fight over the past fortnight.
The political consequences of Kavanaugh’s confirmation remain to be seen. The past two weeks have seen a surge in Republican enthusiasm – as base voters are invigorated by the sense that Democrats are trying to smear a good man over wholly uncorroborated allegations.
Women, a large majority of whom already view Trump in a negative light, have also been activated by this fight – and are promising consequences for this vote at the midterm ballot box in 31 days’ time.
The Point: Kavanaugh will be on the Supreme Court. And Collins’ vote to put him there will almost certainly be the most consequential – and controversial – of her career.