14:40 GMT02 March 2021
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    The long, drawn-out political battle to confirm Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is set to wrap up Saturday afternoon as the Senate prepares for one last vote after weeks of allegations, testimony, protests and political intrigue.

    The US Senate voted Friday 51-49 to limit further debate, thereby advancing the Washington justice's nomination to one final vote. The procedural vote came on the heels of the release of the findings of an FBI probe which proved unable to corroborate the allegations made by two women that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted them back in high school.

    The FBI's findings proved enough for two moderate Republican holdouts, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona, to vote yes on moving Kavanaugh's nomination forward. 

    Collins, whose pro-abortion stance clashes with Kavanaugh's position on the issue, criticized the entire confirmation process, suggesting that it had "become so dysfunctional it looks more like a caricature of a gutter level political campaign than a solemn occasion." While characterizing Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's testimony accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault as "sincere, painful and compelling," Collins emphasized that the FBI had found no corroborating evidence from Ford's witnesses, and said her vote was based on the presumption of "innocence and fairness."

    Flake, a 'Never Trump' Republican who has battled the former businessman since his 2016 presidential campaign, also indicated that he will vote 'yes' to confirm "unless something big changes."

    One Republican, One Democrat Break Ranks

    In a break with party ranks, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia also voted against further debate, while Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted not to move Kavanaugh's nomination ahead. Manchin justified his decision based on the information available to him, particularly the FBI report. Kavanaugh, he said, has been demonstrated to him "to be a qualified jurist who will follow the Constitution and determine cases based on the legal findings before him."

    Murkowski said she would vote 'present' for Saturday's final vote instead of 'yes' or 'no' out of courtesy to Montana Republican colleague Steve Daines, who plans to attend his daughter's wedding, but said her conscience could not allow her to vote to approve him. "I believe that Judge Kavanaugh is a good man. He's a good man," she said. "He's clearly a learned judge. But in my conscience – because that's how I have to vote, at the end of the day, is with my conscience – I could not conclude that he was the right person for the court at this time," she said.

    Rand Paul, the independent Republican from Kentucky who has clashed with President Trump from time to time, and was singled out as a possible obstacle to Kavanaugh's candidacy, also voted to advance the president's Supreme Court pick. In a statement, Paul noted that "having looked at the totality of Brett Kavanaugh's life and career, I am persuaded to vote for him today. The preponderance of evidence from hundreds of people who knew him and worked with him indicates he is a good man with a good reputation for integrity and character."

    If the rest of the Republican and Democratic senators vote the same way Saturday as they did Friday, the final tally in Kavanaugh's favor is expected to reach 50-49. In the unlikely event of a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike Pence is prepared to cast the deciding vote in the nominee's favor.

    Partisan Politics

    Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings led to an outburst of partisan politics, including the arrest of 101 protesters on Friday, adding to the nearly 300 detained a day earlier in so-called 'Cancel Kavanaugh' protests outside the Capitol and Senate buildings. President Trump, who said he was "very proud" of the Senate for advancing his nominee, called the protesters "paid professionals" "paid for by [George] Soros and others."

    Trump nominated Kavanaugh in July after moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy's announcement of his plans to retire. If confirmed, Kavanaugh, a former Bush administration staffer, is expected to move the Supreme Court right on issues including abortion rights, affirmative action, the death penalty, gay rights, and gun rights for decades to come.

    Vote Breakdown

    Below is a breakdown of how senators voted on Friday to limit further debate, and how they are expected to vote Saturday, absent any major changes.

    Republicans voting to advance Kavanaugh's candidacy:

    Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana

    Democrats voting to advance Kavanaugh's candidacy:

    Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia

    Democrats voting against advancing Kavanaugh's candidacy:

    Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pennsylvania, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-NevadaSen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minnesota, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon

    Independents voting against advancing Kavanaugh's candidacy:

    Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont


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