This post is being updated and revised throughout the day to include additional information as news develops.
And so ends what little suspense remained. Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced Friday afternoon that they intend to vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, handing Mitch McConnell the votes he needs to give Donald Trump’s nominee a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.
“We’ve heard a lot of charges and countercharges about Judge Kavanaugh, but as those who have known him best have attested, he has been an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband, and father,” Collins said during a lengthy speech on the Senate floor, which began after a brief interruption from anti-Kavanaugh protesters in the gallery. “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 so that we have far fewer 5–4 decisions and so that public confidence in our judiciary and our highest court is restored.” She then finished: “I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”
After Collins made her intentions clear, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin followed suit, releasing a statement that he’d vote to confirm Kavanaugh despite his “reservations” about the sexual misconduct allegations against him as well as his temperament during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “However, based on all of the information I have available to me, including the recently completed FBI report, I have found Judge Kavanaugh to be a qualified jurist who will follow the Constitution and determine cases based on the legal findings before him,” the West Virginia Democrat said.
Collins and Manchin were 2 of 51 senators who voted Friday morning to cut off debate on confirmation, a procedural maneuver that cleared the way for a final vote, tentatively set for Saturday evening. (Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski was the lone Republican to vote against cloture; Manchin the lone Democrat to vote for it.) At the time, though, Collins told reporters that she would make an announcement this afternoon about her ultimate decision regarding confirmation, which left the door open ever so slightly that she might, just might, vote against Kavanaugh when it mattered most. Collins has now slammed that door shut.
Vice President Mike Pence was ready to deliver the tiebreaking vote for Kavanaugh in the event the Senate split 50-50. Technically, then, Collins or Manchin alone couldn’t have kept Kavanaugh off the high court. But if Collins would have flipped, that would have given Manchin cover to do the same. It was painfully clear that Manchin never wanted to be the 50th vote, and he had refused to say whether his confirmation vote would be the same as his cloture vote until after Collins took the floor on Friday afternoon.
Despite all the speculation and suspense, the GOP math was always pretty simple. With a 51–49 majority, Republicans needed to limit their defections to just one. The three usual suspects quickly emerged as Democrats’ best bets: Murkowski, Collins, and retiring Sen. Jeff Flake. The three teamed up last Friday to force their party to allow the FBI to conduct a limited investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. After viewing the FBI report on Thursday, though, Collins and Flake appeared ready to get this thing over with. Now, they effectively have.