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One GOP Senator Can't Make a Saturday Kavanaugh Vote as Four Lawmakers Undecided

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) leaves with committee members after speaking about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Oct. 4, 2018, at a news conference on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — If the vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh gets pushed to this weekend, one Republican senator in the 51-49 chamber won’t be able to make it.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) is already scheduled to walk his daughter down the aisle Saturday back in his home state. He’s expected to vote for Kavanaugh, but is putting the wedding first.

As four senators are still publicly undecided, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) scheduled the critical cloture vote for 10:30 a.m. Friday. If one GOP senator votes against Kavanaugh, the planned final vote Saturday may have to be delayed taking into account Daines’ absence, with senators out Monday for Columbus Day.

“I believe we’ve done the best we could under these circumstances, given the incredible mishandling of Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford’s allegation by the ranking member on this Judiciary Committee to try to treat everybody fairly,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said at a GOP press conference today. “But it’s time, now, to vote and that’s what we’re going to do starting tomorrow morning.”

Kavanaugh wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this evening that his “hearing testimony was forceful and passionate… because I forcefully and passionately denied the allegation against me.”

“The Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution. The justices do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. They do not caucus in separate rooms. As I have said repeatedly, if confirmed to the court, I would be part of a team of nine, committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States. I would always strive to be a team player,” he wrote.

“My statement and answers also reflected my deep distress at the unfairness of how this allegation has been handled,” he said of last week’s hearing. “I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who’s in a tough midterm fight to keep her job, announced today that she’ll vote “no” on Kavanaugh.

“We live in a very divisive time, but we can change that. Both sides horribly handled the process around this nomination. We must learn from these mistakes,” she said. “I voted for Justice Gorsuch because I felt his legal ability and temperament qualified him to serve on the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh is different.”

Heitkamp said she reached her conclusion based on concerns about the judge’s past conduct and his “current temperament, honesty, and impartiality” as suggested by last week’s hearing.

“There are many extremely qualified candidates to serve on the court,” she added. “I’m ready to work with the president to confirm a nominee who is suited for the honor and distinction of serving this lifetime appointment.”

That leaves pending decisions from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who currently leads his Republican challenger by nearly 10 points in the polling average, and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who is retiring from Congress. It also leaves two more GOPs not up for re-election this year: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

Though Kavanaugh enjoys strong polling support among Alaska Republicans, Murkowski enjoys strong support from Alaska Natives who are not backing the nomination. The Alaska Federation of Natives came out against Kavanaugh based on how they fear he’ll rule on issues such as tribal rights, environmental protection and healthcare, and independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker cited similar reasons in his opposition to the nominee.

Murkowski met in her office for hours today with dozens of women who flew out from Alaska, including attorneys, activists and survivors of sexual assault.

Flake was reportedly meeting today with his friend Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).

“If I could make one request, it would be that we come out on the other side of these last few weeks with an awareness of those who are in silent and deep and lonely pain often right next to us, all around us in our families, in our churches, in our workplaces and in our communities. And that we give them the listening, the understanding, and the embrace to help them heal,” Coons said today on the Senate floor, sharing stories of sexual assault victims.