WASHINGTON - It's the last hurdle for Brett Kavanaugh.
Republicans appear to have the votes needed to confirm Kavanaugh and tilt the Supreme Court in favor of conservatives for years to come. A full Senate vote is scheduled sometime after 4 p.m. Saturday.
For weeks, Kavanaugh's future has hung in the balance during hours of hearings, FBI investigations and a smattering of sexual assault allegations. The remarkable and ugly set of twists and turns over the weeks all ended at the doorsteps of several key lawmakers.
Senators Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, waited until Friday to announce how they would vote. By the end of the day, there was a slim, 51-49 vote tally in favor of Kavanaugh's confirmation.
Collins' dramatic decision, laid out in a nearly 45-minute speech on the Senate floor Friday, pushed Republicans over the edge and became a turning point for Kavanaugh.
"It is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy," she said. "I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh."
Murkowski, the only Republican who voted against Kavanaugh in a procedural vote Friday, said in a speech on the Senate floor late Friday that since her vote opposing Kavanaugh would not keep him off the high court, she would instead vote “present” as a collegial gesture for her Republican colleague Sen. Steve Daines, who supports Kavanaugh but is attending his daughter's wedding Saturday.
The gesture won't change the final vote but change the tally to 50-48 in favor of Kavanaugh's confirmation.
The Kavanaugh vote could also be a pivotal moment in next month's midterms. where control of Congress is up for grabs. A large reason Republicans voted for Trump was to put conservatives on the court.
Both parties think the partisan fight will motivate their voters to get to the polls Nov. 6. Democrats are seen as having a good shot of capturing the House, fueled in part by anger among female voters. But Senate Democrats are defending multiple seats in states Trump easily carried, making the Kavanaugh vote a potential liability.
Overnight, senators on both sides of the aisle nevertheless continued to make their case on Kavanaugh's future. Republicans applauded Kavanaugh's judicial record and shamed liberals on their treatment of the accusations of sexual assault targeting him.
Democrats used their speeches to vent against an FBI investigation they've dubbed a "sham" and accused Kavanaugh of a bias against liberals.
The final vote on Saturday is not just a chance for Republicans to shift the court to the right for what could be decades, but is also a test of how public officials respond to the raw emotions unleashed by the allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh as part of the #MeToo movement.
Each vote in the razor-thin Republican majority will carry more weight than usual as Kavanaugh's appointment will hold for life.
Kavanaugh’s nomination always was destined to become a partisan battleground because of the justice he was picked to replace: Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s swing vote, who had sided with his liberal colleagues on issues such as abortion, affirmative action and gay rights. Kennedy, 81, retired after three decades in the middle of the court’s ideological battles.