U.S. Senate plans procedural vote on Kavanaugh in bitter confirmation fight

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley R-Iowa speaks about the FBI investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh Thursday

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley R-Iowa speaks about the FBI investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh Thursday

John Bresnahan, Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politico.

A deeply divided Senate pushed Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination past a key procedural hurdle Friday, setting up a likely final showdown this weekend in a spellbinding battle that's seen claims of long-ago sexual assault by the nominee threaten President Donald Trump's effort to tip the court rightward for decades.

Confirmation would be a crowning achievement for Trump, his conservative base and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Complicating matters is that senators are reviewing the findings in shifts, Republicans for one hour, Democrats for an hour, and so for. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) had said that he will make his mind up based on the results of the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe, but offered no further indication as to how he would vote on Thursday.

Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said on Fox News' "Fox & Friends" he doesn't yet know how the vote will come out but respects his fellow senators' decision to keep quiet as they consider what to do.

"I am pleased to support Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation".

North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who faces a hard re-election race next month, cited concerns about his "past conduct" and said she felt his heated attacks on Democrats during last week's Judiciary Committee hearing raised questions about his "current temperament, honesty and impartiality".

Those not interviewed in the reopened background investigation included Mr Kavanaugh himself and Christine Blasey Ford, who alleged he had molested her in a locked room at a 1982 high school gathering. Susan Collins of ME and Jeff Flake of Arizona voted yes, as did Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

"It's time to vote", said Republican Senate Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley on Thursday.

President Trump used the fight over Kavanaugh's nomination to rile up his supporters at a rally in Minnesota on Thursday night, drawing chants of "we want Kavanaugh" from the crowd. The individuals interviewed had potential firsthand knowledge of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh stood by his performance during last week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which he denied the misconduct allegations, made at the same hearing, of a California university professor.

While GOP leaders were not saying they'd nailed down the support needed, backing from two of those three would ensure Kavanaugh's confirmation because every other Republican was poised to back him.

Kavanaugh, who now sits on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and previously worked for the independent counsel's office during the investigation of President Bill Clinton, described opposition to his nomination as "revenge on behalf of the Clintons".

But his Journal piece, headlined "I am an independent, impartial judge", appeared aimed squarely at Republicans on the fence who have expressed concerns about his temperament and partisan attacks during the hearing.

The divisive debate over Kavanaugh, inflamed by the accusations of sexual misconduct, provoked demonstrations by thousands of people on Thursday. If it passes, it could pave the way for a final vote as early as Saturday.

Kavanaugh admitted that he became "too emotional" and said things he shouldn't have.

"It looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation that was limited perhaps by the White House, I don't know", Feinstein told reporters.

Republicans have a 51-49 majority in the Senate and this razor-thin majority has carried the vote forward, despite two swing votes.

As noted by USA Today, Friday's vote essentially stops Democrats from filibustering and pushing off a vote on Kavanaugh. They accused the White House of limiting the FBI's leeway.

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