Will Any Senator Have a McCain ‘Maverick’ Moment, Turn on Kavanaugh?

Democrats hope someone changes tack on final vote on SCOTUS confirmation

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., votes ‘no’ on the bill to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law. (Screenshot CQ Roll Call video)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., votes ‘no’ on the bill to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law. (Screenshot CQ Roll Call video)
Posted October 5, 2018 at 1:45pm

As the final vote on the Senate floor on whether to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh looms, Democrats’ odds of recruiting two more lawmakers to their side to foil the confirmation have dwindled.

Only one Republican broke from her party on the vote to cut off debate Friday.

Democrats need to retain every member in their ranks and recruit another Republican to successfully keep Kavanaugh off the bench.

GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined 46 Democrats and two independents who caucus with them in opposition to limiting debate on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“I believe that Brett Kavanaugh is a good man,” Murkowski told reporters, adding that she did not arrive at her decision until she entered the chamber to vote.

“I believe he is a good man. It just may be that in my view he’s not the right man for the court at this time,” she said.

It is rare for senators to oppose cutting off debate on a bill or confirmation proceeding and then change their votes to the affirmative.

But just last year, the late GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona delivered his dramatic thumbs-down “no” vote to block Republicans’ long-awaited repeal of the 2010 health care law, even though he had earlier voted to proceed to the measure. 

Democrats’ hopes of blocking Kavanaugh, who has denied multiple allegations that he sexually assaulted women in high school and college, appear to rest on two of three senators — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III and GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Jeff Flake — channeling their inner McCain and flipping their votes at the 11th hour.

Jeff Flake

Flake indicated Friday that he plans to support Kavanaugh.

However — and per usual with the Arizona Republican who seems perpetually conflicted when it comes to big votes — he added some hedging language to that announcement: He will vote for Kavanaugh “unless something big changes,” he said.

We’ve seen Flake, well, flake on certain votes and procedural commitments in the past.

Exhibit A: last Friday.

Just hours after Flake released a statement saying he would “vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh … [after] hearing more than 30 hours of testimony” from him, he negotiated a deal with Democrats and Senate GOP leadership to delay floor votes until the following so that the FBI could complete a “supplemental” background investigation.

That investigation has wrapped up, and Republicans have declared victory.

Flake seems a lock, at this point, to vote to confirm Kavanaugh — but he hasn’t thrown away the key just yet.

Joe Manchin

The West Virginia senator, who’s up for re-election next month in a state Trump won by 42 points was the lone Democrat to break with his party and vote to limit debate on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Multiple outlets reported he does not want to be the swing vote that pushes Kavanaugh over the edge one way or the other.

Manchin also told WV News earlier this week that “if there’s nothing conclusive” that emerges from the FBI’s supplemental investigation, then his decision will be “based on the merits of him being qualified.”

After meeting with him in August earlier in the confirmation process, Manchin said Kavanaugh had “all the right qualities” to serve in the high court.

The moderate GOP Maine senator is often a game-time decision when it comes to votes on key pieces of legislation or divisive nominees.

Collins is expected to announce her final decision on whether she will vote to confirm Kavanaugh during a speech on the Senate floor at 3 p.m., multiple news outlets reported.

She told reporters Thursday midway through reading the FBI’s five-day probe of the allegations against Kavanaugh this past week — a process Democrats have dismissed as “bullshit,” a “sham,” and a “cover-up” — that it appeared to her to have been “a very thorough investigation.”

She finished reviewing all the materials of the investigation later in the afternoon.