Senate near Kavanaugh approval after epic struggle

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Lawmakers might vote differently on the climactic confirmation roll call, and Collins told reporters that she wouldn't rule out doing so.

The procedure, which involves Murkowski being recorded as "present" in the vote as opposed to "no", is unusual enough that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office issued an explanation to reporters on Friday night.

The announcements Friday by Republican Susan Collins of ME and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia came after weeks of shocking accusations, hardball politics and Capitol protests.

Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate.

The bitterly divided Senate voted 51-49 to end the debate on nomination of Kavanaugh, 53, who has been nominated by Trump on the nine-member bench of the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's fate was in doubt for almost a month after the first accusation against him.

"Judge Kavanaugh has received rave reviews for his 12-year track record as a judge, including for his judicial temperament", she said.

McConnell added he knew he what he had to do when he filed the cloture motion last week. Murkowski said she'd use an obscure procedure that lets one senator offset the absence of another without affecting the outcome. While she was among a handful of Republicans who helped sink Trump's quest to obliterate President Barack Obama's health care law past year, this time she proved instrumental in delivering a triumph to Trump.

The investigation looked into the allegation by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a gathering of teenagers when they were in high school in the early 1980s.

Murkowski said after last week's hearings before the Judiciary Committee that she felt strongly that "the appearance of impropriety was unavoidable".

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On Friday, Sen. Jeff Flake, the Republican who stalled Kavanaugh's nomination process by wielding his leverage to call for the Federal Bureau of Investigation review, announced he would vote for Kavanaugh unless something major changes before Saturday.

Vice President Mike Pence planned to be available Saturday in case his tie-breaking vote was needed, which now seems unlikely.

Melania (meh-LAH'-nee-ah) Trump is offering some supportive words for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He firmly defended Kavanaugh and on Thursday at a rally in Franken's home state, as reported by the New York Times, he mocked the former senator for resigning amid his allegations. Two other women also accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct decades ago.

Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a fellow moderate and friend of Collins, has indicated that she will vote no, calling Kavanaugh "a good man" but maybe "not the right man for the court at this time". Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced they would support Kavanaugh.

In the moment that made clear Kavanaugh would prevail, Collins delivered a speech saying that Ford's Judiciary Committee telling of the alleged 1982 assault was "sincere, painful and compelling".

The closest confirmation votes for a Supreme Court nominee were decided by a single vote.

Although some polls have shown increasing Republican enthusiasm ahead of the November midterm elections that will determine control of Congress, Kavanaugh's support among voters as a whole is historically low.

Collins' announcement followed a hotly contested procedural vote to advance Kavanaugh's nomination earlier in the day.

Kavanaugh's confirmation process was scrambled by allegations of sexual misconduct and assault that emerged in recent weeks.

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