The GOP might have lost Lisa Murkowski, but Susan Collins decided not to break rank, which means Brett Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed on Saturday in a final vote after a truly remarkable confirmation process that exacerbated deep divisions within American society.
Earlier Friday, Murkowski was a “no” on cloture, and while Collins, Flake and Manchin were all in the “yes” camp for the procedural vote, there was still quite a bit of speculation around what exactly Collins planned to say in a pre-announced speech at 3PM on Friday afternoon.
As it turns out, she planned to regale the nation with a long-winded rationale for why she plans to support Kavanaugh. While it was nice to know she gave this careful consideration, that likely won’t matter with voters who were depending on her to defend Roe at all costs. Needless to say, not everyone is buying the idea that Kavanaugh believes that’s set legal precedent, primarily because he said it might not be.
Collins spent quite a bit of time explaining why she believes Kavanaugh will in fact be a fair and impartial judge (as he himself was at pains to assert in a last-minute Op-Ed published in the Wall Street Journal Thursday evening). She praised his record on the bench and decried (in harsh terms) what she described as a broken confirmation process.
On sexual assault survivors, Collins had this to offer:
The #MeToo movement is real. It matters. It is needed. And it is long overdue. We know that rape and sexual assault are less likely to be reported to the police than other forms of assault. On average, an estimated 211,000 rapes and sexual assaults go unreported every year. We must listen to survivors, and every day we must seek to stop the criminal behavior that has hurt so many. We owe this to ourselves, our children, and generations to come.
And then on Christine Ford specifically, Collins posited a conspiracy, but insisted it wasn’t Feinstein’s fault:
Christine Ford never sought the spotlight. She indicated that she was terrified to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and she has shunned attention since then. She seemed completely unaware of Chairman Grassley’s offer to allow her to testify confidentially in California. Watching her, Mr. President, I could not help but feel that some people who wanted to engineer the defeat of this nomination cared little, if at all, for her well-being.
One theory I have heard espoused repeatedly is that our colleague, Senator Feinstein, leaked Professor Ford’s letter at the eleventh hour to derail this process. I want to state this very clearly: I know Senator Diane Feinstein extremely well, and I believe that she would never do that. I knew that to be the case before she even stated it at the hearing. She is a person of integrity, and I stand by her.
But the fact remains, Mr. President, that someone leaked this letter against Professor Ford’s express wishes. I suspect, regrettably, that we will never know for certain who did it. To that leaker, who I hope is listening now, let me say that what you did was unconscionable. You have taken a survivor who was not only entitled to your respect, but who also trusted you to protect her — and you have sacrificed her well-being in a misguided attempt to win whatever political crusade you think you are fighting.
You can draw your own conclusions there, but what I would remind you is that Dr. Ford explicitly said in her testimony that she believed it was her “civic duty” to tell her story. “Seeking the spotlight” is something different from “wanting to be heard”. Ford most assuredly wasn’t interested in fame, but for Collins to tacitly conflate that with a desire to remain in the shadows, is a straw man designed to again perpetuate the idea that somehow Dr. Ford isn’t an adult who is capable of making her own decisions about whether to testify and in front of whom.
Collins also harped on the notion that somehow Kavanaugh did not enjoy the “presumption of innocence”, an idea which seemingly glosses over the fact that far from being on trial, Kavanaugh is in fact a judge interviewing to become a more powerful judge.
In any event, the bottom line is this:
That means that barring some kind of truly dramatic change of heart from Jeff Flake, this is a done deal.
As we noted on Thursday evening, it comes as no surprise. Republicans were going to cram this through irrespective of the consequences and, crucially, irrespective of the fact that they could have achieved the same goal (i.e., tipping the balance on the court) with a number of other equally-qualified conservative nominees.
Considering that, and considering that this will only further embolden Democrats headed into the midterms, one wonders what exactly the GOP was trying to accomplish by pushing Kavanaugh through.
That is, it looks bad for Republicans, it tarnishes the Supreme Court, it was hell for Kavanaugh and his family, and it leaves Democrats even more riled up than they would have been otherwise.
What then, was the point?
If I didn’t know better, I’d almost be inclined to think that the GOP’s steadfast refusal to simply replace Kavanaugh with an equally-qualified conservative justice was designed to prove a point not to Democrats, but rather to send a message to sexual assault survivors and women more generally. That message: Do not challenge powerful white men, especially inside the Beltway.
The fact that Kavanaugh’s fate was ultimately decided by a woman would have been poetic justice.
But because the woman in whose hands the judge’s fate ultimately came to rest decided to effectively send a message to women everywhere that their voices don’t matter, the whole thing ended up being sadly ironic instead.
Collins’ full statement can be accessed here