The Capitol building at dusk.
Michael Reynolds/EPA

Why wedding plans may affect the Senate’s vote on Kavanaugh

In about an hour, the Senate will convene for a fairly significant morning. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced late yesterday that the chamber will hold a procedural vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, and this vote on cloture is the final hurdle the judge has to clear before his final confirmation vote.

Filibusters on judicial nominees no longer exist, but today’s vote will offer senators a chance to derail Kavanaugh: if a majority votes “no” today, it would almost certainly end the fight and force Donald Trump to choose someone else for the high court.

But if Republicans prevail today, it’ll start the clock on 30 hours of floor debate – 15 hours for each party – and set the stage for one last vote tomorrow. It may get a little tricky.

Sen. Steve Daines won’t be in town if the Senate votes this weekend on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, which could leave Republicans in a bind.

The Montana Republican told AP that he will attend his daughter’s wedding back home on Saturday regardless of a possible weekend vote on the embattled Supreme Court nominee.

Daines told The Associated Press Thursday that this weekend there’s going to be a new Supreme Court justice and that he is going to walk his daughter down the aisle.

This raises a couple of interesting possibilities.

As things stand this morning, there are 48 “no” votes on Kavanaugh (46 Democrats and 2 independents who caucus with Democrats). There are also four undecided senators: West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D), Maine’s Susan Collins (R), Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski (R), and Arizona’s Jeff Flake (R).

If all four of the undecided members vote “no,” it’s game over for Kavanaugh. If all four vote “yes,” the judge will have 51 votes and he’ll be sworn in as the Supreme Court’s new justice soon after.

But it’s possible we’ll see some divisions within the quartet. What if, hypothetically, there are 49 “yes” votes and 50 “no” votes tomorrow afternoon? According Sen. Steve Daines’ office, the Montana Republican spoke to Kavanaugh on the phone yesterday and assured the nominee that the senator has made arrangements to be there for the judge, if his vote is needed.

At that point, he’d be the 50th “yes” vote, and Vice President Mike Pence would break the tie.

It raises the prospect of Senate Republican leaders holding tomorrow’s vote open for many, many hours, as 99 senators wait around for Daines to fly back to D.C. from Montana.

But first, the focus will be on this morning’s procedural vote. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I’d remind observers that if the cloture vote goes Kavanaugh’s way, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be confirmed. Today’s vote is about formally initiating 30 hours of debate, and it’s entirely possible one or more members will agree to have the debate, even if they end up voting “no” when all is said and done.

We’ve seen this before: last year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) voted for cloture on the Republican health care gambit, only to give the bill a dramatic thumbs-down the next day, killing the bill.

Watch this space.