Susan Collins of ME said 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.
In fact, during her 21 years in the Senate, Collins has voted for judicial nominees put forward by Republican presidents almost 99 percent of the time, according to a Globe analysis of her roll call votes.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participates in taking a new family photo with her fellow justices at the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, U.S., June 1, 2017.
It is not a done deal, however. Mr Kavanaugh has denied all the allegations. The political war, however, is just beginning.
Murkowski in contrast, defied her party and voted against advancing the nomination.
A final confirmation vote is expected Saturday.
Oddly, Ms Murkowski will also separately be counted for a "yes" vote.
"Any human being who has been falsely accused of a range of things including gang rape has a right to be upset, has a right to be angry, and that's what we saw last week", said White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec during an interview with Morning Edition. More than 300 have been arrested in anti-Kavanaugh protests this week in the nation's capital.
A failure to advance Kavanaugh's nomination would deliver a potentially fatal blow to Donald Trump's embattled supreme court pick, who has faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
The left-wing lawmaker's comments echo those of Senators Schumer and Feinstein; who have vowed to fight Kavanaugh's nomination despite the Federal Bureau of Investigation finding "no corroborating evidence" of sexual misconduct in the early 1980s. While she was among a handful of Republicans who helped sink Trump's quest to obliterate President Barack Obama's health care law previous year, this time she proved instrumental in delivering a triumph to Trump.
He also said the allegations against him were part of what he called a leftwing conspiracy to keep him off the court.
Kavanaugh has not yet locked up the votes needed. I know you saw me get emotional, but I can be an impartial judge.
But Collins, a moderate, pro-choice lawmaker from ME, said Kavanaugh was entitled to the "presumption of innocence" as the allegations against him lacked corroborating evidence.
She added that with Supreme Court appointments lasting a lifetime, "Those who seek these seats must meet the highest standards in all respects, at all times".
Which, maybe! As I said above, nothing is official until the final confirmation vote happens on Saturday.
"I think what Susan did today was rise to the occasion when the stakes were so high", said Sen.
Murkowski's vote was the latest example of the independent streak she forged since overcoming a Republican primary challenge in 2010 to win re-election as a rare write-in candidate. Some held signs calling Kavanaugh a liar and unfit to serve. She said he was a "fine man" but was not the right person "for the court at this time".
Collins has a reputation as a moderate and a pragmatist who rarely trades in the fiercely partisan rhetoric of colleagues on both sides of the aisle and often seems an odd fit for a party taken over by Trump.
It also means that in the unlikely event one of the "yea" votes on cloture turns into a "nay" on confirmation, the Kavanaugh cause has one vote to spare.
Republicans defended him. "This investigation found no hint of misconduct", Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley said. They said the process ignored many potential witnesses, including Ford.
Republicans can only lose a single GOP vote if all Democrats vote against the nomination.
At one point, Murkowski told reporters it was "the most hard evaluation of a decision that I've ever had to make".
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