With the conclusion of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, relative calm has again settled over the Tidal Basin here in Washington. No damaging testimony emerged from the hearing (unless you count self-inflicted damage by senators opposed to Kavanaugh), and committee Democrats scored no “gotcha” moments. The countdown begins to the Judiciary Committee vote, itself a foregone conclusion, which has been set by Republican committee leadership for this Thursday but reportedly will be pushed back by Democrats to next Thursday the 20th. This would still clear the way for a full Senate vote the week of the 24th of September, allowing Kavanaugh, if confirmed, to take his seat for the 2018 Term by the start of the session on October 1st.

Attention is focused now on the handful of senators, Republican and Democrat, whose up-or-down votes on the nomination will determine its success or failure. Preeminently, these include pro-abortion Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Secondarily, Democratic senators who face tough 2018 election campaigns in Red States may also play a role: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and John Tester of Montana. This week, the Kavanaugh Column will feature a “close read” on several of these key players and their possible positions on the critical vote.

It’s no understatement to call Senator Susan Collins the “linchpin” of the Kavanaugh nomination. If she votes to confirm him, Senator Murkowski will likely follow to close Republican ranks, and two or three Democratic senators may follow, bowing to what would be an inevitable outcome. On the other hand, if she votes against Kavanaugh, Murkowski and the vulnerable Democrats may follow.

Collins has never voted down a Supreme Court nominee, and she states, “I respect the fact that one of my jobs is to determine whether or not the candidate is qualified for the court, has the requisite experience, and has the judicial temperament, as well as respect for precedence.” But a hard rain has already begun falling on Senator Collins. A package of 3,000 coat hangers arrived at her office the other day, a “gift” from pro-abortion activists who seek to remind Collins of the false narrative they perpetuate that “back alley” abortions were common in the years before Roe v. Wade. The Boston Globe penned an editorial yesterday calling on Collins to vote against Kavanaugh. The Huffington Post declared that a Collins vote for Kavanaugh would be “political suicide.” And pro-abortion groups have raised nearly $1 million in funding for Collins’ (currently non-existent) opponent in the 2020 Senate race if she votes to confirm him – a stunt Collins has stiffly repudiated as a “bribe” for her vote.

All eyes will be on Collins this week, and all ears turned to every word she says about the nomination. It may very well be that no American politician has ever endured such intense political pressure. In all likelihood, the nomination – and the future of the Supreme Court and the fight for Life – rests on her shoulders.