How to correctly interpret the results of today’s Senate cloture vote on Brett Kavanaugh

The scandalous Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination is a flaming car with the wheels falling off of it, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to drive it across the finish line before it goes down in flames. Even with his own members increasingly sounding uneasy about the nomination, McConnell is vowing to force a cloture vote on Kavanaugh today. If it succeeds, most media outlets will paint it as the nomination being a done deal. But that’s not how any of this works. Here’s what today’s cloture vote will actually tell us.

In a cloture vote, the Senators are literally voting on whether to hold an official vote, and nothing more. So if fifty Republicans vote “yes” on the cloture motion today, does that mean that Brett Kavanaugh has fifty “yes” votes for confirmation? No, not necessarily. McConnell is trying to force the hand of his undecided votes at a time when they’re clearly still trying to make up their minds.

If the undecided GOP Senators vote “no” on cloture today, then the Kavanaugh nomination instantly dies. It’ll be over, and they’ll have killed it, even if they weren’t ready to do so. But if they vote “yes” on cloture, it’ll give them at least another thirty hours to seek counsel and decide how they want to vote on Kavanaugh. So it’s entirely conceivable that the undecided GOP Senators – and even red state Democrat Joe Manchin – could vote in favor of cloture today just to buy time, and then turn around and vote against Kavanaugh in the final vote.

In other words, if the undecided Senators vote in favor of cloture today, it does not mean the nomination is in the bag, unless those undecided Senators also announce that they plan to vote “yes” in the final vote. If anything, it’ll be even more important to work the phones and call these Senators if the cloture motion succeeds.

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