With the supplemental FBI report now complete, the ball is back in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s court to push forward with a vote on Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats are claiming that the FBI’s work wasn’t thorough enough, or was somehow limited by the White House to avoid uncovering more accusations. Republicans, by and large, seem satisfied, including moderates like Sen. Collins and Sen. Murkowski who have been wavering all week.
Here’s a list of the 5 make-or-break votes for Kavanaugh and a look at how they seem to be leaning right now:
1. Susan Collins, R-Maine – Collins has been largely supportive of Kavanaugh from the beginning but then got some cold feet after the Ford accusations broke. She agreed with Sen. Flake that a one-week delay for more investigating was a good idea. As of this afternoon, she seems satisfied that the investigation didn’t corroborate Ford’s claims and didn’t bring any new facts to light:
JUST IN: Crucial GOP swing vote Susan Collins reacts to FBI's Kavanaugh findings:
"It appears to be a very thorough investigation. But I’m going to go back to personally read the interviews.”
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) October 4, 2018
We can only take that to mean Collins is likely leaning toward a “Yes” vote unless things change in the next 24 hours.
2. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona – Flake, if you’ll recall, was instrumental last week in forcing the one-week delay for the supplemental FBI investigation. As of now, Flake also seems satisfied with the FBI’s report and signs point to the results of the investigation confirming his vote in favor of Kavanaugh:
"We asked the FBI to investigate current credible allegations. That’s what they’ve done. …
I had planned to vote for him before, but I certainly wanted the FBI, the professionals, to look at it. And they have. I think they’ve been thorough."
— Alex Rogers (@arogDC) October 4, 2018
Flake was already leaning toward supporting Kavanaugh but it seems that he felt no harm in allowing a little more time to let the FBI talk to more people. Again, things could change overnight, but right now it looks like Flake is in the affirmative column on Kavanaugh.
3. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska – Murkowski has followed closely with Collins, both Senators had offered initial support for Kavanaugh but became concerned when the accusations from Dr. Ford came to light. While Murkowski has not confirmed her support publicly since the FBI report has been released, it’s unlikely that she would break with Collins, or Flake, for that matter, and vote against Kavanaugh especially since she hails from deep-red Alaska. The most we do know is that she’s taking the report seriously and hasn’t yet made up her mind:
Murkowski left closed-door briefing on the Kavanaugh probe and said she was still reviewing the contents of the FBI investigation. She said she wants to read the report herself when asked if she believed the investigation was thorough enough.
“I’m not wasting any daylight here”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 4, 2018
Murkowski will probably speak later today, but unless things change drastically, she’ll probably be on board with Collins and Flake.
4. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota– Heitkamp is in a tough spot politically. She’s engaged in a very tough re-election race where her home state overwhelmingly supports Kavanaugh’s nomination. However, as of minutes ago, Heitkamp went on the record to declare herself a “No” vote against Kavanaugh:
JUST IN: Democratic senator Heitkamp says she will vote against Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh – radio interview https://t.co/eCMMXmuYoj
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 4, 2018
This one is somewhat surprising, but clearly she feels that there could be more to lose with the Democratic base bailing on her if she crosses the aisle to vote for Kavanaugh.
5. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia – Just like Heitkamp, Manchin is in a tough re-election battle against a strong Republican in a state that Donald Trump easily won. He’s taking this decision seriously over Kavanaugh since it could be pivotal in his campaign. As of now, we still don’t have a firm answer from Manchin which means he’s at least offering the appearance of leaving his options open:
MANCHIN on Kavanaugh: “I’m undecided. I’m truly undecided.” Said he is waiting for the FBI report. What are you looking for? “I’m just looking for some clarity.”
— Lissandra Villa (@LissandraVilla) October 3, 2018
He is set to review the FBI report this afternoon so expect an update later today on Manchin’s vote.
If Collins, Flake, and Murkowski all vote “Yes,” that would put Republicans at 51 votes and hand Kavanaugh the nomination without much drama. If that happens, you might see Manchin come in at the tail end, even Heitkamp, possibly, and offer a “Yes” vote since they wouldn’t be the deciding factors. On the other hand, if Republicans end up with 49 votes because Murkowski and Collins balk, then there will be more pressure on these red-state Democrats to push Kavanaugh over the top but I doubt, in that case, it would happen.
We should know by tomorrow how this vote is coming down.