GOP senator to be absent Saturday; impact on vote unclear

Two resolutions in the Senate are testing GOP allegiance to Trump
Senate TV via CNN

Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana will be out Saturday because he will be walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding, and would miss a confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh held that day.

The Senate is currently on track to take a key procedural vote to advance the nomination on Friday morning, with a final confirmation vote possible at about 5 p.m Saturday.

Daines told CNN on Thursday that GOP leaders may be forced to hold open the confirmation vote for Kavanaugh overnight as the senator returns to Washington from his home state, where his daughter is being married.

“I’d come back after the wedding,” he told CNN.

“It will probably be early morning,” Daines said, suggesting he wouldn’t get back until sometime early Sunday. “We’re taking it a day at a time to see what happens.”

The delay would add another twist to what has been an excruciating confirmation process for Kavanaugh, whose vote was already delayed for a week as the FBI investigated sexual assault charges against him.

It’s unclear how the absence could affect a Saturday vote or whether it will delay the vote — in part because it’s not yet clear how many Republican senators will vote to support the nomination. Daines himself backs Kavanaugh.

Daines said GOP leaders “have literally not said how they will manage” his absence for the vote. He noted that right now there is not even certainty that Kavanaugh will clear the procedural vote scheduled for Friday, because of possible opposition from three moderate Republicans.

The leadership will gauge how to handle Daines’ absence based on Friday’s cloture vote, according to a source.

Daines had made clear to GOP leaders earlier this week he wouldn’t be in attendance if there were a Saturday vote, he said.

“My daughter’s wedding has been planned for months,” Daines said.

“We’ve been very open and transparent on it and we want to work for everyone. I think we’ll get there, I really do,” he added.

At this point, Republican leaders in the Senate don’t have a solid vote count as undecided senators continue to deliberate, so there are no decisions that can be made now, the source said.

If they have enough votes to move ahead with the nomination Friday and have 50 without Daines on Saturday, they’ll hold the vote, and if they don’t, it will be delayed, the source said.

If they do need Daines, however, the vote would still have to be called on Saturday due to Senate rules.

Senate Republicans need at least 50 votes if Vice President Mike Pence steps in to break a tie for both Friday’s procedural vote and a final confirmation vote. That means they can’t lose more than one GOP senator if all Democrats vote in opposition.

Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have not yet indicated how they plan to vote and neither has red state Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.