After Murkowski's Bombshell Announcement, These Two Senators Will Make Or Break Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court Confirmation

A major bombshell in Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court came early Friday afternoon, October 5, when Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced that she was a definite “no” vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee. This means that only two senators remain undecided on Kavanaugh: Maine’s Susan Collins and Arizona’s Jeff Flake and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin). And they are the ones who, at this point, could either make or break the nomination.

Here are where things presently stand on Kavanaugh’s nomination with these undecided senators.

1. Susan Collins

Sen. Collins has been described as the last of the “moderate” northeastern Rockefeller Republicans. Truth be told, Collins isn’t really a centrist: she has a very conservative voting record and voted to confirm Trump’s 2017 Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. But she does buck her party on occasion. In 2017, Collins was a swing vote that helped save the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, from being overturned—and unlike most Republicans, Collins is pro-choice on the abortion issue.

The Maine senator is under enormous pressure to vote for Kavanaugh, and she has indicated that she is leaning in that direction. But she is also under great pressure from Kavanaugh opponents in Maine, where activists have been crowdfunding a hypothetical Democratic opponent for 2020 should she vote “yes.”

While Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and other Democrats in the Senate have criticized the FBI’s investigation of Kavanaugh for being superficial and much too brief, Collins doesn’t agree: she described the FBI’s report as “very thorough.” And that report might give her an excuse to vote for Kavanaugh. But on the other hand, Murkowski’s bombshell gives Collins some cover should she vote “no.”

2. Joe Manchin

On October 5, Joe Manchin was the lone Democrat to invoke cloture on Kavanaugh’s nomination. With Indiana’s Joe Donnelly and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp having announced that they are definite “no” votes, Manchin remains the sole Democrat who might help to save Kavanaugh’s nomination. And he has reason for a “yes” vote: Manchin, who voted for Gorsuch’s confirmation, is up for reelection in a state that Trump won in 2016. Manchin has been ahead in the polls, and he would like to keep it that way.

It would be a cruel irony if Manchin voted for Kavanaugh and helped save his nomination while a Republican, Murkowski, voted against him, but given that he is up for reelection in a state where Trump remains popular, it is a distinct possibility.

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