Sen. Susan Collins delivered a masterful defense of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday, and moments later a key Democrat also announced his support, virtually ensuring Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the high court.
Ms. Collins, a Maine Republican who had been the most-watched senator in the chamber ahead of the vote, took a scalpel to Democratic objections on both legal and moral grounds, defended Republicans’ handling of sensitive sexual assault allegations, and blasted outside interest groups for plumbing the “rock bottom” in their desperation to try to defeat Judge Kavanaugh.
“I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” Ms. Collins said, drawing applause from her colleagues, many of whom came to the floor to hear her tour de force defense of the political center.
Immediately after her speech Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, announced his support for Judge Kavanaugh, giving him 51 votes in the Senate and guaranteeing his confirmation.
Mr. Manchin was less enthusiastic than Ms. Collins, saying he has “reservations” about Judge Kavanaugh. But he concluded the judge was “a qualified jurist who will follow the Constitution.”
For her part, Ms. Collins said she had closely studied Judge Kavanaugh’s record during his 12 years as a circuit court judge and found him to be far from the conservative crusader his opponents had claimed. Instead, she said, he cut a judicious path through thorny issues, showing respect for precedent and an aversion to judicial adventures.
And she said that while she found Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who’s accused Judge Kavanaugh of a sexual assault at a high school party decades ago, was compelling, there is a complete lack of evidence to back up her claims against the judge.
She said she understood those on both sides of the divide on the question, but said she was unwilling to toss standards of fairness and due process in evaluating the claims.
“It is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy,” she warned.
Over the past few weeks, she had been a target of liberal groups who had raised money they say they’ll give to her opponent in her next re-election in 2020.
On Friday the groups said they’ve raised more than $2 million.
“Susan Collins has betrayed the people, and especially the women and survivors, of Maine,” the groups said.