GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski Votes ‘Present’ to Kavanaugh Confirmation

October 6, 2018, 5:43 PM UTC

Senator Lisa Murkowski, the only Republican opposing Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, used a quirky Senate procedure in Saturday’s confirmation vote to help fellow GOP Senator Steve Daines, who supports the nominee but will be at his daughter’s wedding in Montana.

The procedure, which involves Murkowski being recorded as “present” in the vote as opposed to “no,” is unusual enough that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office issued an explanation to reporters on Friday night.

“When a senator is necessarily absent (for example, attending their daughter’s wedding), they can ‘pair’ with another senator who is voting the opposite way,” Don Stewart, a McConnell spokesman, said in a statement.

“I have extended this as a courtesy to my friend. It will not change the outcome of the vote” Murkowski said on the Senate floor on Friday night. “But I do hope that it reminds us that we can take very small, very small steps to be gracious with one another and maybe those small, gracious steps can lead to more.”

She made the remarks hours after Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said that sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh weren’t strong enough to persuade her to vote no. That gave him enough Senate support to win confirmation after a bitter, partisan battle. Murkowski had already announced her intention to vote “no.”

Under the pairing arrangement, the senator in the duo who is present and voting — in this case Murkowski — announces that she or he has “a pair” with the senator not in attendance. Murkowski then would announce how Daines would have voted and that she voted the opposite way “and that they therefore withdraw their vote and are instead recorded as present,” Stewart said.

“This allows the vote to occur with the same margin as would have occurred without the absence,” Stewart added in in an email, which had the subject line “procedural nerd stuff.”