Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine., ended weeks of suspense Friday, announcing that she will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh despite the allegations of sexual assault made against him.
“I do not believe these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court,” Collins said.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, another key vote, announced her opposition to Kavanaugh earlier in the day Friday. But Collins’s support is expected to give Kavanaugh enough votes to clear the Senate if the rest of the Republican caucus holds firm.
In a lengthy floor speech, Collins portrayed Kavanaugh as a “centrist” judge and cited her belief in the “presumption of innocence” when weighing whether to confirm the nominee, despite believing that accuser Christine Blasey Ford survived a sexual assault.
With the political world holding its breath, Collins spoke of a lack of “corroborating evidence” to back up Ford’s claims that Kavanaugh was the man who assaulted her more than three decades ago.
The speech by Collins, an abortion-rights Republican who has been regarded as a possible swing vote who might block Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the high court, began with a protracted interruption by protesters intent on blocking President Trump’s nominee from being confirmed.
Decrying the Kavanaugh confirmation process as “dysfunctional,” Collins noted that some of her colleagues had rushed to announce their opposition to his nomination.
Collins said she had met with “thousands of my constituents,” noting that both supporters and opponents of the judge had given her their opinions in the days since Ford came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault. But Collins also spent much of her remarks discussing issues other than the allegations made by three women, including the nominee’s views on the use of the precedent set forth by past Supreme Court cases such as Roe v. Wade.
A final vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination is set to be held Saturday, but moments after Collins spoke, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., released a statement announcing that he too would support Kavanaugh’s nomination to the high court, all but sealing the confirmation.