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Susan Collins backs Kavanaugh, setting the stage for his SCOTUS confirmation

Collins said sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh "fail to meet the 'more likely than not' standard."

Sen. Susan Collins announced she will back Brett Kavanaugh in spite of sexual assault allegations. (CREDIT: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Sen. Susan Collins announced she will back Brett Kavanaugh in spite of sexual assault allegations. (CREDIT: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced Friday that she would vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, in spite of sexual assault allegations that put Kavanaugh’s confirmation in jeopardy in recent weeks.

“[Kavanaugh] has been an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband, and father… My fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court,” Collins said in a long, meandering speech justifying her decision.”Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

Collins said she disagreed with the contention that Kavanaugh would do away with the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. She also disparaged the notion that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would effectively gut Roe v. Wade, before then saying that while she believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was a survivor of sexual assault, there was not enough evidence to put the blame on Kavanaugh.

“I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life,” Collins said. “Nevertheless, the four witnesses she named couldn’t corroborate any of the events of that evening where she said the assault occurred… Therefore, I do not believe that these charges can prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the Court.”

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On Friday morning, the Senate approved a cloture motion to move forward with Kavanaugh’s confirmation, voting by a margin of 51-49. Collins and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who had previously been undecided about his vote and had called for the additional FBI investigation last week, voted in favor. The only Republican to vote against the motion was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), while Democrat Joe Manchin (WV) also voted in favor.

Shortly after Collins finished her speech Friday, Manchin reportedly confirmed he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, giving Republicans the necessary votes.

The vote moved forward after a supplemental FBI investigation, released Thursday, found no evidence to support the accusations of the three women — Dr. Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick — who had accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault. The FBI report however was excoriated by Democrats, as well as Ford’s lawyers, for a number of key failings, including refusing to interview dozens of witnesses who came forward offering to corroborate the women’s stories.

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Collins’ offices have been beset by protesters, both in Washington, D.C. and in Maine. In Washington, dozens of demonstrators crowded into her office to urge the senator to vote no on the final vote on Saturday.

“I traveled really far to be here because I couldn’t just settle with the fact that my Senator — who’s a woman — will not take a stand at this moment,” Cookie Harrist of Denmark, Maine, told ThinkProgress’ Amanda Gomez. “She could be assisting us in the effort to end rape culture… instead she is backing down.”

All week, protesters flocked to Collins’ Maine office to share their own stories of sexual trauma; some were even arrested in their efforts to convince the senator to help block Kavanaugh’s nomination. Protesters have grown increasingly frustrated with Collins who, despite being previously honored by Planned Parenthood, had up until Friday maintained radio silence regarding how she planned to vote on Kavanaugh.

“She needs to step out of the way and say, ‘I can’t support this president’,” Namoi Mayer, a Portland resident, previously told ThinkProgress. “Unless she wants us to think she’s an idiot or a pawn — which I know she isn’t — she’s playing a game that none of us want to play.”

This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.