The Senate voted today to advance the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. This was a cloture vote, ending floor debate on the nomination. A final vote is likely to take place over the weekend.
The cloture vote was mainly along party lines. Fifty-one senators voted yes, while 49 opposed the measure. But in the hours leading up to the vote, the outcome was uncertain. Forty-eight of 51 Republican senators were expected to vote yes, including Sens. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), Mike Lee (R–Utah), and Ben Sasse (R–Neb.) Likewise, 48 of 49 Democrats were believed to be certain nos.
Four senators were still undecided as of Friday morning: Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R–Alaska), Susan Collins (R–Maine), and Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.), plus Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.). Manchin, who voted yes, is up for reelection next month in a state President Donald Trump carried in 2016 by a 41-point margin.
Collins, who also voted yes on cloture, informed reporters of her plans minutes beforehand. She said she'll announce this afternoon how she'll vote on the confirmation itself.
Flake also voted yes, while Murkowski was a no.
Flake was largely responsible for last Friday's drama before the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Kavanaugh's nomination. Flake originally said he would support the nominee. But moments before senators voted, he complicated things. Flake said that while he would vote yes in the committee, he wanted the Senate to delay its floor vote so the FBI could reopen its background check into Kavanaugh.
Flake got his wish. The FBI did indeed look into allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. The bureau specifically probed the accusations of Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when he was a student at Georgetown Prep, and Deborah Ramirez, who claims he exposed himself to her while they were both students at Yale.
The final FBI report, which has not been made public, contains "no corroboration of" Ford or Ramirez's allegations, according to an "executive summary" released by the office of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa). But many Democrats challenged the findings, claiming the investigation was too limited in its scope.
Regardless, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) scheduled the cloture vote for Friday morning. "It's time," a GOP official told CNN prior to the vote. "It's never going to get any easier, so it's time to pull the trigger and get this done."
Kavanaugh's confirmation is not yet a done deal. But as CBS News notes, senators are not likely to change their vote now. If they supported ending floor debate on the nomination, they're likely vote to yes on the nomination itself. According to CNN's Manu Raju, though, there's a chance Collins' final vote may be different from her yes vote this morning.
On Thursday, Sen. Steve Daines (R–Mont.) said he'll be attending his daughter's wedding on Saturday, though he's willing to return to Washington, D.C. afterward. In any case, Vice President Mike Pence is reportedly on standby in Washington in case he needs to break a tie in the Senate.