Crunch time arrives in the US Senate at approximately 10:30 this morning. Do Republicans have the votes to get past cloture and set the clock for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation? Susan Collins holds one of the key votes, and she’s been might coy about where she’ll land. NBC’s Frank Thorp reports that Collins will announce her decision after this morning’s cloture vote:
NEWS: @SenatorCollins will announce how she plans to vote on Kavanaugh’s final confirmation during a 3pm Senate Floor Speech.
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) October 5, 2018
Philip Klein sees this as a sign of optimism … for today, anyway:
This suggests she must at least be a "yes" on cloture. https://t.co/xmNmEAxZ70
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) October 5, 2018
It seems a little odd to assume that cloture will pass only to vote against confirmation … right? Why not vote to kill the nomination today? This isn’t a eat-your-cake-and-have-it-too moment. The only thing at stake is whether Kavanaugh gets confirmed or not, so presumably opponents of Kavanaugh would be better off killing it now than later. No Republican is going to say to Collins, “At least you voted nicely on cloture.”
Ben Sasse is a yes this morning, too:
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) October 5, 2018
But back to the question at hand — does the GOP have the votes to confirm? When Politico looked at the question last night, the answer from Senate GOP leadership seemed to be yes:
Republican leaders insist they don’t speak for the three GOP holdouts, but they sure talk like they’ve already won the battle for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The confidence was on open display as the party’s chief vote counter, speaking at a news conference Thursday, all but guaranteed that Kavanaugh will clear a procedural hurdle on Friday and be confirmed a day later. He and other top Republicans had reason to cheer, after Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine gave encouraging early remarks about the FBI’s much-anticipated Kavanaugh report, enough to seal the confirmation if their statements translate into votes. …
Standing alongside fellow Judiciary Committee members, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) referred to the judge’s confirmation as a foregone conclusion. He told reporters the Senate would put an end to “this circus-like atmosphere” this weekend when it votes “to finally confirm this good man to this important position.”
This morning, however, the confidence didn’t seem as apparent to Politico, or to Senate Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley on Fox & Friends:
Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) have not yet announced how they will vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is barreling ahead with the confirmation process. Grassley, who has bombastically condemned the drama surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation, said the final results will likely remain unknown until the votes are cast.
“Our leader said yesterday this is one of the few times in the United States Senate we won’t know how it’s going to go until everybody has cast their vote,” Grassley said. “So we don’t, as of now, I don’t really know, and I don’t know whether anybody else does.”
Grassley doesn’t know where the vote is going, but he’s plenty angry with Democrats on Capitol Hill. Without naming Maxine Waters, Grassley blames “one Congresswoman” for inciting a campaign of intimidation against senators, and calls Democrats “Resistahnce central.” His fury yesterday doesn’t seem to be a one-off or a put-on.
At least one of the four plans to keep it close to the vest until the very end:
Manchin update: still undecided (per Manchin, as he walked into the SCIF to review the FBI report again.)
“Probably undecided til I walk in the door” to vote at 10:30, he says.
— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) October 5, 2018
Without public confirmation from four Senators on their upcoming vote on cloture, one has to wonder why Mitch McConnell has kept it on the schedule. If this fails, it’s going to be a disaster for Republicans in general and especially in the midterms. Maybe he does know how the vote will go, and is just keeping it quiet until the vote itself to give the four some cover. Or perhaps McConnell realizes that it’s fish-or-cut-bait time on this nomination, and further delay isn’t going to help push this across the finish line. Deadlines are sometimes helpful in shoring up the week-kneed … or sometimes it just exposes them.
At any rate, we’ll keep an eye on developments and use this for updates on the vote count. Stay tuned!
Update: We’ll have a separate live blog for the cloture vote itself, but we’ll have the updates on pre-showdown developments here. Burgess Everett reports that it’s “possible” that Collins could go one way on cloture and another on confirmation:
GOP believes "it's possible" Collins votes one way on cloture today and another tomorrow on final Kavanaugh vote https://t.co/PuPyPJFYr4
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) October 5, 2018
I guess it’s possible, but it’s tough to see a benefit from doing so. If she opposes cloture and then votes to confirm, how would that satisfy progressives? If she votes for cloture and then votes down Kavanaugh, how does that give her any relief from Republicans? It’s Hamlet in two acts.
Update: Collins confirms she’ll vote to move to a final vote:
Susan Collins tells reporters: “I will be voting yes to proceeding to the final confirmation vote, and I will announce my intention on how I’ll vote later today.” She didn’t take questions
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 5, 2018