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Alaska's Murkowski surprises with procedural 'no' vote on Kavanaugh

Alaska's Lisa Murkowski (R) jolted the political world a bit, voting not to advance Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Headed into this morning, the stage was set for a key procedural vote on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, and there were four undecided senators, each of whom have been reluctant to signal their plans. West Virginia's Joe Manchin (D), Maine's Susan Collins (R), Alaska's Lisa Murkowski (R), and Arizona's Jeff Flake (R).

If three of these four voted "no" on cloture, it would effectively end Kavanaugh's chances. Here's how they ended up voting:

Collins: YesFlake: YesManchin: YesMurkowski: No

As the dust settled, Kavanaugh's nomination advanced on a 51 to 49 vote. Barring any dramatic developments -- and given recent events, anything's possible -- a final up-or-down confirmation vote on the Republican judge will be held tomorrow.

So, what are we to make of all of this? The big news is clearly Lisa Murkowski's "no" vote this morning, which she hadn't announced in advance, and which jolted the landscape a bit. It's possible she'd oppose cloture but support confirmation, but that wouldn't make any sense at all. It's more likely the Alaskan will oppose Kavanaugh's nomination.

At face value, that might appear to put Murkowski's future in Republican politics in jeopardy, but let's not forget that in 2010, the senator lost a GOP primary, but she ended up winning re-election anyway as a write-in candidate.

It doesn't hurt that the Alaskan won't face voters against until 2022, after cruising to an easy victory in 2016.

If we assume that Murkowski doesn't change her mind between now and tomorrow afternoon, that brings the total number of "no" votes to 49. To defeat Kavanaugh, opponents will need that number to reach 51.

Or put another way, there now appear to be three undecided senators -- Collins, Flake, and Manchin -- each of whom voted "yes" on this morning's procedural vote. Two of those three would need to vote "no." If not, Kavanaugh will be confirmed.

For her part, Collins' office said this morning that the Maine Republican will formally announce her position later this afternoon.