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Collins, Manchin announce 'yes' votes on Kavanaugh, likely paving the way for confirmation

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) answers questions from reporters on allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill September 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. Collins was considered a potential swing vote on Kavanaugh until she announced her decision on Oct. 5. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced on Friday that she planned to vote "yes" on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court. Immediately following Collins' speech, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced that he would also vote "yes," likely paving the way for Kavanaugh's final confirmation.

Here's what you need to know

In a speech on the floor of the Senate, Collins said:

"Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh."

She called him an "exemplary citizen, judge, coach, teacher and father," and said that she thought he would heal divisions in the court.

Collins said that despite the allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh was entitled to a "presumption of innocence" in light of what she believed to be a lack of compelling evidence. Collins called the allegations by Julie Swetnick that Kavanaugh was involved in drugging and gang raping girls "outlandish."

She said that she found Christine Blasey Ford's testimony to be "sincere, painful, and compelling," and that she believes that Ford is a survivor of sexual assault. However, Collins noted that the witnesses named by Ford could not corroborate that the incident occurred. Citing denials by Kavanaugh and his friends, and a lack of other corroborating evidence, Collins said that she didn't believe "these charges can clearly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court."

Collins slammed the nomination process, saying that when Kavanaugh was nominated, "special interest groups raced to be the first to oppose him, including one that didn't even bother to write in the judge's name on his press release."

Collins was referring to the Women's March, which quickly sent out an email after Kavanaugh's nomination was announced, but forgot to remove the placeholder letters "XX," which had been typed in place of the nominee's name.

Collins argued that she did not think that Kavanaugh would scrap the entire Affordable Care Act if given the opportunity, or overturn existing precedent without a good reason.

What else?

Collins was one of the few remaining senators who had not declared either for or against Kavanaugh.

Earlier on Friday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another previously undecided senator, announced that she would be voting against Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court.

Murkowski has already voted "no" during the procedural vote, during which the Senate voted 51-49 to end the debate on Kavanaugh and move forward with the final vote. However, later on Friday Murkowski indicated to reporters that she was still undecided.

On Thursday, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) announced that she would be voting against Kavanaugh.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has said that he will vote yes "unless something big changed" before the vote was held.

Manchin voted to end the debate and hold a final vote. Fox News reported immediately after Collins' speech that Manchin would also be a "yes" vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Including Flake, Collins, and Manchin, the Republicans currently have 51 declared "yes" votes. As long as the Republicans still have at least 50 votes when the final vote on Kavanaugh is held, Vice President Mike Pence can use his tie-breaker vote as president of the Senate to push them to the 51 votes they need to confirm him.

This piece has been updated to reflect Manchin's announcement of a 'yes' vote.

One last thing…
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