Just like with last year’s vote on Obamacare, Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation will all come down to Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Two GOP senators must vote against Kavanaugh for his confirmation to fail, and these two women senators are the only ones in their party ever to vote against the wishes of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.
As we reported last night, several moderate Republicans remain undecided on Kavanaugh. But we can’t expect Jeff Flake to buck the party line, and Bob Corker has already announced he will vote yes on Kavanaugh.
Flake talks a good game but he has never had the political courage to back up his words with actions. Therefore if Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination is to be defeated it will have to be done by Collins and Murkowski.
Many people believe that so-called “red-state Democrats” are also undecided on Kavanaugh but that isn’t really true. They want to appear undecided so they can go back home and tell their constituents that they are bi-partisan and don’t always follow the Democratic party line.
However, they only vote against the Democratic party line when it is safe to do so.
A case in point is Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He votes with Democrats just 70% of the time. But never does he cast the DECIDING vote against Democrats.
In other words, he will vote with Republicans only if it is clear that a bill will pass anyway and his vote is essentially meaningless. And then he goes back to West Virginia and publicizes how he voted with the Republicans, increasing his popularity. This is why his Democratic Senate seat is safe this year in the state that voted for Donald Trump by a wider margin than any other state.
It was widely reported that Manchin huddled last night with Collins, Murkowski and Flake. This was good publicity for him in an election year. It made it seem like the four senators were all undecided, as if their votes on Kavanaugh could go either way.
The truth is that Manchin, like most other red-state Democrats (the exceptions being Claire McCaskill and Doug Jones), is waiting to see how Republicans vote before announcing where he stands on Kavanaugh.
This means he’s waiting to see what Collins and Murkowski do before saying which way he will vote.
What’s interesting is that Lisa Murkowski tends to look to Susan Collins for guidance in these situations. If Collins decides to go against Kavanaugh, it’s a good bet that Murkowski will also. (This is especially true since Murkowski is already getting a lot of pressure from Native Alaskans to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.)
The truth is, she is under probably as much home state pressure to vote against Kavanaugh as is Murkowski. She has won her seat in the past because of the support of a lot of independent Maine women voters. She has told them she is pro-choice, but Kavanaugh is pro-life. She also is facing the strong anti-Trump backlash among women voters.
And now, with Kavanaugh being accused of several different sex crimes, the women voters in Maine are definitely against his confirmation.
Which means approval of Brett Kavanaugh on the floor of the Senate is no sure thing. Mitch McConnell knows this, but it is assumed he will go ahead with a floor vote anyway, just like he did on Obamacare repeal when he didn’t have the votes he needed.
Nobody thinks Jeff Flake — the only moderate on the Judiciary Committee — will have the guts to vote “no” when the commitee takes a vote later this morning.
Once again in this Republican Congress Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are the swing voters, and they hold all the power. Brett Kavanaugh’s fate depends on them.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.