Republican Sen. Susan Collins Announces She Will Support Brett Kavanaugh
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
And Judge Brett Kavanaugh is now one step away from a seat on the Supreme Court. Looks like he has the votes he needs to be confirmed in a final vote tomorrow.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
This afternoon, the last undecided Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, delivered a lengthy floor speech. She talked about Kavanaugh's qualifications for the Supreme Court before she turned to the allegations of sexual assault against him and said this.
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SUSAN COLLINS: The presumption of innocence and fairness do bear on my thinking. And I cannot abandon them.
SHAPIRO: Then for the next 20 minutes, she walked through why she ultimately believed the charges against Kavanaugh should not prevent him from serving on the Supreme Court. Her conclusion...
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COLLINS: Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.
KELLY: Minutes after that, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin said he would also support the nominee. All right. We're going to bring in NPR's Kelsey Snell. She is on Capitol Hill. She has been tracking all of this back and forth today. Hey, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.
KELLY: Hi. So I want to ask in just a second a little bit more about what Senator Collins said. But first, just the headline - is there any suspense at this point how this confirmation fight is likely to shake out?
SNELL: Well, now that Manchin has said that he remains a yes, this is - essentially, they have 51 votes. The 51 people who voted yes before are very likely now to vote yes tomorrow when the final confirmation vote comes up. Now, that's not to say that some crazy thing couldn't happen between now and then.
KELLY: Anything could happen, yeah.
SNELL: We have to keep those caveats going. But this means that the support that we saw earlier today seems to stand. And it means that Vice President Mike Pence does not appear to be needed to break any ties.
KELLY: Right, a role that he might have had to play had it not taken out shaken out quite this way today. OK. Senator Collins, as she laid out her position in a lengthy floor speech, as Ari just said, didn't appear to have been undecided any time that recently. I mean, she was - from start to finish, it was pretty clear how she was planning to vote.
SNELL: Yeah. She basically used her speech as a kind of closing argument. It was as much that - a closing argument for Kavanaugh as anything else. She basically was saying that he is not the extreme partisan that Democrats have been saying he is. And she walked through all of the ways that he's more moderate than he's been portrayed. She did that for more than 40 minutes. And she made a pretty tough case there. She said that she didn't like that this had become what she called gutter-level political campaign instead of a solemn, you know, confirmation process.
Earlier today, she had lunch with Senator Mitch McConnell. And I was in the room there while she was making that speech. And he sat just a few seats away from her and turned his seat so he could watch her while she spoke. And it was clear that he was prepared and ready and kind of knew what was coming.
KELLY: Tell me a little bit more about how she said she wrestled with the allegations of sexual assault.
SNELL: Yeah. She said that she believes that something may have happened to Ford - Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who originally accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. But she says she doesn't think that the process that they went through in going through his record unearthed any evidence that it was Kavanaugh who did it. And she's sticking to her belief in the presumption of innocence. And she spoke about that quite a bit and about the idea that this isn't a trial but that due process is still something she believes in.
KELLY: Tell me a little bit more, as someone who was at the Capitol today watching this historic day unfold, what was the scene?
SNELL: There was a little bit of chaos chasing people down. But it was a much calmer scene because it seemed like people had made up their minds. They weren't telling us as reporters. But it wasn't the chaos we saw just a week ago.
KELLY: And Democrats - do they have a next move planned?
SNELL: They've been kind of resigned to this - I guess is the answer. They're not happy. And they plan to keep on fighting, and they plan to turn this into a midterm fight and make this about the election now.
KELLY: NPR's Kelsey Snell on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Kelsey.
SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.