Brett Kavanaugh moved one step further toward becoming a Supreme Court justice, as the Senate voted 51–49 to advance his nomination to a final vote.
Republicans Jeff Flake and Susan Collins, seen as crucial swing votes, voted to advance the nomination, along with Democrat Joe Manchin. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican to vote against advancing Kavanaugh to a final vote.
The procedural vote came a day after the conclusion of a limited FBI investigation into allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez more than three decades earlier. While the contents of that investigation have not been made public, Republicans were quick to claim it exonerated Kavanaugh.
Hundreds of anti-Kavanaugh protesters were arrested in the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday afternoon during a massive rally opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination. Activists have also spent the past week confronting Republican senators with their own stories of surviving sexual assault in an effort to convince them to vote against Kavanaugh.
Despite the passage of Friday’s cloture vote, a number of Senators have remained steadfastly tight-lipped as to whether they will ultimately confirm Kavanaugh. Collins—one of the few senators widely, if mistakenly, seen as a “moderate” Republican—announced that she would reveal her decision in a floor speech scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, while Democrat Joe Manchin has said his decision will remain a secret until the moment he walks onto the Senate floor.