WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Friday morning to cut off debate and move to a final vote on Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, setting up a weekend showdown that will end the most volatile confirmation process in decades for the nation’s highest court.
In the vote, 51 to 49, only two senators, Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, and Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, voted against party lines.
One senator, Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, voted to cut off debate but left open the possibility that she could still vote against confirmation. Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, who has wrestled with his decision, indicated that he would vote in favor of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation “unless something big changes.” Republican leaders were pressuring Ms. Murkowski to reverse her position, though she said on Friday that her decision was made.
Here are the key senators as the Senate moves toward a final vote Saturday afternoon on Judge Kavanaugh.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska
Ms. Murkowski, together with Ms. Collins, has cultivated a reputation as a moderate Republican who is unafraid to break from her party in pivotal moments, including over abortion rights. She and Ms. Collins emerged last year as key votes that sank a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
But in weighing whether Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed, Ms. Murkowski, who is not up for re-election until 2022, has set up her own test.
“I believe we’re dealing with issues right now that are bigger than the nominee and how we ensure fairness and how our legislative and judicial branch can continue to be respected,” she told reporters on Friday. “This is what I have been wrestling with, and so I made the — took the very difficult vote that I did. I believe Brett Kavanaugh’s a good man. It just may be that in my view he’s not the right man for the court at this time.”
Ms. Murkowski was the second Republican to join Mr. Flake last week when he called for the F.B.I. to investigate allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh.
[Ms. Murkowski’s speech explaining why she voted against Judge Kavanaugh.]
Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia
Mr. Manchin is seeking re-election in a state that President Trump won overwhelmingly, and he is trying to demonstrate to voters that he is not blindly aligned with the Democratic Party.
In 2017, Mr. Manchin voted to confirm Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, Mr. Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, and a vote for Judge Kavanaugh could aid the senator’s campaign.
But the chief issue for the West Virginia senator is health care: Mr. Manchin, who has repeatedly voted against attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has stressed that he wants the courts to preserve the act’s protections for people with pre-existing health conditions.
After meeting with Judge Kavanaugh, the senator said in a radio interview in July that he was not leaning in a particular direction, but found the judge to have “all the right qualities.” After the Senate vote on Friday morning, a spokesman said that Mr. Manchin would have nothing else to say on the matter until Saturday.
As sexual assault accusations against Judge Kavanaugh came out, Mr. Manchin stayed tight-lipped. Last week, however, he released a statement calling the confirmation process “partisan and divisive,” but also supporting a delay in the process to accommodate an F.B.I. investigation.
In an interview on Monday with WV News, a local news outlet, Mr. Manchin said he would base his vote on the findings of the investigation.
“If there’s nothing conclusive,” he said, “then it’ll be based on the merits of him being qualified.”
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine
Ms. Collins supports abortion rights, and she has indicated that she believes Judge Kavanaugh would uphold Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that found a constitutional right to an abortion. She cites a discussion they had in which he assured her that he believes Roe is “settled law.”
She also dismissed an email he sent in 2003 that Democrats tried to use as evidence that the judge is anti-Roe. In it, Judge Kavanaugh wrote that he was “not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since court can always overrule its precedent, and three current justices on the Court would do so.”
Previously, Ms. Collins voted for Judge Kavanaugh in 2006 when he was nominated by President George W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
But Ms. Collins has faced intense pressure from protesters to vote against Judge Kavanaugh. A group of liberal activists created a crowdfunding campaign that has raised more than $1.75 million, which donors pledged would be given to her opponent in 2020 if she votes for the judge’s confirmation.
That pressure might have a different effect than intended: Ms. Collins has hotly criticized those efforts, describing the crowdfunding as “the equivalent of an attempt to bribe me.”
Ms. Collins was to announce her decision on a final vote on Judge Kavanaugh at 3 p.m. Friday.
Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona
Mr. Flake, a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, is retiring from the Senate this year, after deciding not to run for re-election. As a result, his vote is largely shielded from the political pressures faced by his peers.
After the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Mr. Flake said that listening to Judge Kavanaugh and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testify left him with “as much doubt as certainty.”
The senator has made clear that he was inclined to vote for Judge Kavanaugh unless the F.B.I. investigation revealed that the judge either engaged in sexual misconduct or lied to the committee.
“I want to support him. I’m a conservative. He’s a conservative judge,” Mr. Flake told reporters last Friday. “But I want a process we can be proud of, and I think the country needs to be behind it.”
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