Murkowski, in her fourth term representing
Collins, in her fourth term representing
Collins's announcement proved decisive. Minutes after she finished speaking, West Virginia Democratic Sen.
All three senators — along with
In the end, Collins and Murkowski diverged.
Collins told a rapt
Murkowski chose the opposite path.
"I believe that
While she respects her colleagues' support for Kavanaugh, Murkowski said, "I also that think we're at a place where we need to think about the credibility and integrity of our institutions."
Both senators won praise from their colleagues.
"I think what Susan did today was rise to the occasion when the stakes were so high," said Sen.
Flake said he thinks "the world" of Murkowski and said she made her own decision despite intense pressure to vote yes. "I admire her a lot," he said.
Murkowski's vote was the latest example of the independent streak she forged since overcoming a Republican primary challenge in 2010 to win a re-election as a rare write-in candidate. She was re-elected in 2016.
Murkowski has expressed unease with the sexual assault allegations lodged against Kavanaugh, which he denies. She has faced pressure from home state Alaskans, including Native Alaskan women, who have described the scourge of sexual assault.
Collins took pains to say she believes Ford suffered a sexual assault that "has upended her life," but said she was not convinced Kavanaugh was the culprit. None of the people at the high school gathering where Ford said the assault took place have corroborated her account, Collins said.
"Believe me I struggled with it for a long time," Collins said after her speech. "I found
Even so, Collins said she hopes the ugly fight over Kavanaugh's confirmation will raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual assault. She supports the #MeToo movement, Collins said, calling it badly needed and long overdue.
Collins has never opposed a
Besides interviewing and talking to people who know Kavanaugh, Collins said she assembled a team of 19 attorneys to assist her in examining his judicial record. She called the appeals court judge eminently qualified, adding that his judicial philosophy is well within the mainstream.
In keeping with her deliberative style, Collins had kept mum for weeks about how she would vote.
Still, she sent signals that Kavanaugh had cleared a hurdle by reassuring her that he believed the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights is settled law.
Kavanaugh supporters were elated. "
Collins and Murkowski are the only
Collins lamented a pressure campaign aimed at her and other wavering senators and said millions of dollars in "dark money" had been spent by Kavanaugh's opponents. Liberal groups have been running TV ads encouraging Collins and other senators to reject Kavanaugh.
Murkowski also rendered her decision Friday in dramatic fashion. As the clerk read names in alphabetical order on a procedural vote to move the nomination forward, all eyes were on Murkowski.
When it was her turn, Murkowski stood up, paused, and whispered "no," her voice barely audible. Then she took her seat, looking down with a stone-faced expression.
Collins, who sits next to Murkowski, leaned over and put her hand on the arm of Murkowski's chair. The two huddled in deep conversation.