Murkowski to vote 'present' on Kavanaugh

Move allows senator to stay at daughter's wedding

By PAUL LEBLANC, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Friday that she remains a "no" on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but will vote "present" for Saturday's final vote, which won't affect Kavanaugh's confirmation but will allow Sen. Steve Daines to stay at his daughter's wedding in his home state instead of flying to Washington to cast his supporting vote.

Daines, a Montana Republican who has supported Kavanaugh's nomination, has been scheduled to attend his daughter's wedding on Saturday for months and made it clear he wouldn't be skipping the ceremony.

"I will be a 'no' tomorrow," Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said on the Senate floor. "I will, in the final tally, be asked to be recorded as present and I do this because a friend, a colleague of ours, is in Montana this evening, and tomorrow at just about the same hour we're going to be voting, he's going to be walking his daughter down the aisle and he won't be present to vote."

"I have extended this as a courtesy to my friend," she added. "It will not change the outcome of the vote."

If no senators change their votes from Friday's cloture roll call, the final tally will sit at 50-48 at Saturday's final confirmation vote, enough for Republicans to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court with no senator holding the sole deciding vote.

Murkowski, the only Republican to vote against advancing Kavanaugh's nomination during Friday's cloture vote, made clear that while her final vote will be recorded as "present" she remains opposed to confirming the nominee.

"I believe that Judge Kavanaugh is a good man. He's a good man," she said. "He's clearly a learned judge. But in my conscience -- because that's how I have to vote, the end of the day, is with my conscience -- I could not conclude that he was the right person for the court at this time, and this has been agonizing for me."

If Murkowski asked to be recorded the same way she voted Friday -- a "no" -- Republican senators would have to preside over the Senate to keep the chamber open late into Saturday night and potentially early Sunday to wait for Daines to fly from Montana to DC. GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte of Montana had said earlier Friday that he would let Daines use his private plane for transportation if needed.

Kavanaugh's confirmation was thrown into doubt after a tense Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, in which Christine Blasey Ford alleged the Supreme Court nominee had sexually assaulted her when they were in high school in the 1980s. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations against him.

Kavanaugh's confirmation vote is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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