51 TO 49

Everything you need to know about today’s final Senate vote on Brett Kavanaugh

US Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh.
US Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Image: Reuters/Chris Wattie
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The final vote in the contentious confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is expected to take place in the Senate later in the afternoon today (Oct. 6).

Despite such a long, fraught process—and amid Democrat’s charges (paywall) that the last week’s FBI investigation was anything but comprehensive—the final vote looks all but assured. Here’s what you need to know:

What’s expected?

Confirmation is expected after a procedural vote on the Senate floor on Friday resulted in a 51-49 tally. Crucial yes votes came from Republican senator Susan Collins of Maine—who delivered a 45 minute speech on the senate floor justifying her support of Kavanaugh’s nomination—and the centrist Democrat Joe Manchin, who is seeking re-election in Trump-favoring West Virginia.

Republican senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, after using his place on the Senate Judiciary Committee to push for an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh last week, ended up voting to confirm the judge. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the sole Republican to vote in opposition.

What could go wrong?

Not a lot. The vote that took place on Friday is what’s known as a cloture vote. This is a “procedural oddity” that has become more common since Obama’s presidency. It establishes a 30-hour time limit before a final vote must take place and prevents opposing Senators from delaying a vote via a filibuster.

The senate only needs 51 to win approval, rather than the official Senate rule of 60 votes under a cloture motion. This is thanks to the Democrats’ move in 2013 to make use of the so-called “nuclear option” to advance appointments under Obama. (The last time a Supreme Court justice was confirmed by the margin of a single vote was 1881). Though it is permissible for a senator to change their mind in between the cloture vote and the final vote, it’s less likely to happen in a nomination vote versus a bill. In other words, for Kavanaugh’s critics, there is no clear path to block his nomination.

How’s Trump feeling?

Pretty pleased with himself, as you might expect. Peter Baker of the New York Times mused (paywall) that the past week might have been “the best week of his presidency so far.” This is thanks not only to winning the confirmation, but also securing a new NAFTA deal and announcing decades-low unemployment in the latest jobs report. Yesterday, after the procedural vote, Trump sent out a jubilant Tweet.

When will a confirmed Kavanaugh take his seat on the court?

The Supreme Court’s 2018-2019 term started on October 1. If the confirmation goes forward as expected, Brett Kavanaugh can take his seat on the Supreme Court swiftly, as early as Monday morning.