Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, 53, was a step away from the apex bench as the ruling Republican party managed to gain the crucial backing of enough Senators needed to confirm his nomination.
Kavanaugh's presumptive victory became clear when Collins made a dramatic speech from the Senate floor mid-afternoon Friday announcing she plans to vote yes on Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts and the man he's replacing, retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, as fellow Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan looked on - two conservatives and two liberals. The position of national security advisor doesn't require Senate confirmation.
There was concern among Republicans that Daines's absence could cause a last-minute problem in the expected vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh has angrily denied Ford's accusations that he drunkenly sexually assaulting her in 1982 at a high school gathering.
The opposition Democratic lawmakers made it a political issue and joined the first accuser in demanding a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into the sexual assault allegations.
Ford privately shared her story with the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen.
"What she did was to come forward and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and agree to cooperate with any investigation by the FBI and that's what she sought to do here".
"Change must come from where change in America always begins: the ballot box", said Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of NY, looking ahead to November.
Tensions on Capitol Hill have been high this week, particularly on Friday, as the Senate voted to advance Kavanaugh's nomination.
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The dramatic Senate floor announcement by perhaps the chamber's most moderate Republican ended most of the suspense over a tortuous, election-season battle that had left Kavanaugh's fate in doubt for almost a month after the first accusation against him.
Kavanaugh was quickly sworn in at the court building, across the street from the Capitol, even as protesters chanted outside. Two other women later emerged with sexual misconduct allegations from the 1980s.
But he said he believes Kavanaugh will "determine cases based on the legal findings before him".
Murkowski said she would vote no on his confirmation.
Collins' speech was immediately interrupted by protesters in the Senate gallery, who chanted "vote no", indicative of the enormous pressure she faced to oppose Kavanaugh's nomination.
But it could also energize Democrats and women just weeks before the midterm elections, potentially imperiling GOP control of at least the House.