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The Senate votes to move forward on Kavanaugh’s nomination

This vote, which starts the countdown clock to the final vote, is a better indicator of who is a “no” than it is who is a “yes.”

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford And Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Testify To Senate Judiciary Committee
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2018.
Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate has voted 51-49 to advance Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, an important procedural step that also signals how senators are feeling about his confirmation. But it’s still unclear if Kavanaugh will make it through the final vote.

Though Sens. Susan Collins, Joe Manchin, and Jeff Flake voted to advance Kavanaugh to a final vote, they have not yet said how they will cast their final vote. Notably, Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted “no” on the procedural vote, suggesting that she isn’t prepared to move Kavanaugh to the next step.

This vote is a better indicator of who is a “no” more than it is who is a “yes” on the final vote. Now the 30-hour debate clock on Kavanaugh’s confirmation is ticking. A final vote on his confirmation could take place as early as Saturday afternoon — though it may need to be delayed for one Republican senator whose daughter is getting married this weekend. Flake, Collins, and Manchin — three pivotal swing votes — have yet to indicate how they plan to vote but signaled that they feel comfortable advancing the process further.

Collins has said she will announce how she will vote Friday afternoon.

Murkowski’s position, which has been closely watched for days, was the most surprising development to emerge from the Friday morning vote. It strongly suggests that she opposes Kavanaugh’s nomination and will likely vote against it in a final Senate floor vote.

The Senate took the vote just a day after receiving the FBI report on Kavanaugh

This is a key procedural win for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who insisted on Tuesday that he would begin voting on Kavanaugh this week. The vote took place just a little over a day after the Senate received an FBI report examining sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh, prompting Democrats to wonder if lawmakers would even have the time to review the findings before making a final decision.

Democrats broadly slammed the report as too limited in scope and argued that the FBI hadn’t interviewed enough witnesses to conduct a truly effective probe of allegations brought forward by multiple women including Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez.

“This whole thing is a sham. This stunted, strangled investigation was designed to provide cover, not to provide the truth,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, said: “What is the most notable part of this report is what’s not in it. The FBI did not interview Brett Kavanaugh, nor did the FBI interview Dr. Blasey Ford.”

Republicans, meanwhile, seemed satisfied with the final product and argued that it included “no corroboration” for the allegations that have been raised against Kavanaugh.

“This investigation found no hint of misconduct, and the same is true of the six prior FBI background investigations conducted during Judge Kavanaugh’s 25 years of public service,” said Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

McConnell argued earlier this week that lawmakers would have plenty of time to draw their conclusions, despite the rushed nature of the FBI report disclosures. For the three Republican undecideds and red-state Democrat Joe Manchin, those conclusions appear to have come very much down to the wire.

What comes next

Given the urgency with which McConnell has approached this entire confirmation process, he’s expected to move for a floor vote as soon as Saturday afternoon. He needs 50 votes to confirm Kavanaugh given the expected absence of Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT). If he can’t get to that number, the vote may have to be delayed for Daines. (In the case that the full Senate is present and there’s a tie, Vice President Mike Pence can step in to cast the tiebreaking vote.)

The Montana Republican is planning to walk his daughter down the aisle for her wedding on Saturday evening, regardless of the timing of the vote, which means McConnell may have to hold the vote open until Sunday depending on how everything shakes out.

Whenever that final vote takes place, all 100 senators will determine whether Kavanaugh — after facing multiple sexual misconduct allegations — will be confirmed.

Between now and then, some of the pivotal swing senators are expected to announce where they stand, including Collins, who will make her statement at 3 pm. There’s also still plenty up in the air until the final vote takes place. Recall that last Friday, Flake had issued a statement supporting Kavanaugh before abruptly urging the Senate to delay a floor vote and backing an FBI investigation into the allegations.

If the same number of senators who backed the Friday procedural vote opt to back Kavanaugh, however, his Supreme Court seat appears relatively assured.