“It appears to be a very thorough investigation,” Collins said on Thursday morning. Before the allegations surfaced, her vote seemed to hinge on Kavanaugh’s posture toward Roe v. Wade—the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion that had previously been the biggest flash point of Kavanaugh’s nomination. Though she remains officially undecided on Kavanaugh, Collins had earlier said she was satisfied with the nominee’s stated respect for the Roe precedent.
Flake had already come out in support of Kavanaugh late last week, but the Arizona senator abruptly joined Democrats in demanding a one-week delay of a vote to confirm him so that the FBI could try to scrutinize Ford’s and Ramirez’s claims. “We’ve seen no additional corroborating information,” Flake told reporters on Thursday.
Both Collins and Flake emphasized that they intended to read the full report, leaving some uncertainty about where they would come down. But senior Republicans projected confidence about the outcome, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a key procedural vote for Friday, with final confirmation likely to come on Saturday if the initial tally succeeds.
“I feel very good about where this nomination is right now,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley told reporters at an afternoon press conference, even as he lit into Democrats for orchestrating what he called “a demolition derby” that left Kavanaugh “just about destroyed.”
“Hopefully we’re 48 hours away from having a new person on the Supreme Court,” Grassley said.
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, it will be by the narrowest of margins. Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota announced on Thursday she would oppose the judge, leaving Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia as the only Democrat left who might vote for him. Heitkamp is the most vulnerable Democrat from a red state up for reelection this fall, and recent polls have shown her falling behind Representative Kevin Cramer by double digits.
Heitkamp, Manchin, and Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana all voted for Neil Gorsuch’s nomination last year, but Heitkamp said Kavanaugh was different. “In addition to the concerns about his past conduct,” she said in a statement, “last Thursday’s hearing called into question Judge Kavanaugh’s current temperament, honesty, and impartiality.”
Earlier in the day, Republicans and Democrats jousted over how to characterize the FBI’s confidential findings. After Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley released a statement saying the investigation found “no hint of misconduct,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters, “I disagree with Senator Grassley’s statement that there was no hint of misconduct.” Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey echoed Schumer’s comment, but neither man would reveal exactly what in the FBI report they were referring to.