Collins essentially sealed Kavanaugh’s nomination when she ended weeks of suspense and speculation by saying in a Friday floor speech that she would vote to confirm him.
“Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court,” Collins said Friday.
In supporting Kavanaugh, Collins — who was one of three Republican senators who withheld their decisions on Kavanaugh until Friday — split with Maine’s other U.S. senator, Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. King previously announced his opposition to Kavanaugh.
King said he was “very concerned” about Kavanaugh’s “position on some of the important issues to come before the court,” including presidential power, abortion rights and campaign finance.
“A vote for a Supreme Court justice is an attempt to predict the future and I came to a different conclusion for a number of different reasons,” he said. “I guess the good thing about a situation like this is the next two or three years will prove one of us right.”
Kavanaugh, the embattled nominee who was accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford when they were teenagers, was confirmed Saturday in a 50-48 majority. Vice President Mike Pence announced the confirmation at approximately 4 p.m. Saturday, as protesters were being removed from the Senate gallery.
Trump tweeted shortly after the vote that Kavanaugh would be sworn in Saturday.
Collins joined every Senate Republican but Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who announced Friday that she opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination but that she would vote “present” on Saturday.
King, independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and all Senate Democrats but Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is waging an uphill re-election battle in a state where Trump remains extremely popular, voted not to confirm Kavanaugh.
Before the final vote Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called Collins’ speech “historic.”
Collins’ vote of confidence came after a winding speech on the Senate floor during which she defended Kavanaugh’s judicial record, describing him as “more of a centrist than some of his critics maintain.” She then sharply criticized his nomination process as as more like “caricature of a gutter-level political campaign than a solemn occasion.”
“Our Supreme Court nomination process has been in steady decline for more than 30 years. One can only hope that the Kavanaugh nomination is where the process has finally hit rock bottom,” she said.
Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, which made Collins,Murkowski, Manchin and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona the pivotal votes in determining the outcome of Trump’s second nominee to the high court. Flake supported Kavanaugh early Friday, making Collins’ endorsement the one that gave the nomination the votes it needed to place Kavanaugh on the court.
Kavanaugh was confirmed by the slimmest margin in more than 135 years. Only the 24-23 vote to confirm Stanley Matthews in 1881 was closer.
After allegations from Ford and other women that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted women when he was a young man, sexual assault survivors joined Democrats and abortion-rights advocates in Maine to protest the nomination and urge Collins to oppose him.
King addressed those Mainers in a statement issued minutes after Saturday’s vote.
“Over the past several weeks, so many Maine people — particularly women — have shared with me their stories about how they have been affected by this nomination fight. All I can say to them today is that we cannot give up hope. The work is not over; it is just beginning.”
BDN State House reporter Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.
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