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GOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week

GOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week
© Greg Nash

Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are opening the door to the panel voting on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination this week.

GOP senators on Monday said the committee could vote this week, while deferring a decision to Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October MORE (R-Iowa), the Judiciary Committee chairman.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynO'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters he would defer to Grassley on the timing of the vote but "Friday would be possible."

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Under that timeline, senators would vote on Kavanaugh's nomination in the Judiciary Committee roughly a day after he and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing him of sexual assault, are testifying publicly.

GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Trump in a corner on Saudi Arabia Trump should stick to his guns and close failed South Carolina nuclear MOX project CNN's Smerconish: What do Saudis have over American presidents? MORE (S.C.) predicted the panel would not vote on Thursday but that he would be "OK" with the panel voting on Thursday or Friday.

"I'm ready to move forward after the hearing as soon as possible," said Graham, who could become chairman of the committee next year if Republicans hold onto the Senate and Grassley becomes chairman of the Finance Committee.

The committee vote was initially scheduled for Monday but postponed after staff for Grassley and lawyers for Ford got an agreement for a public hearing to take place on Thursday.

Spokesmen for Grassley repeatedly shot down questions from reporters around Capitol Hill on Monday about when the panel would vote. If Republicans wanted to vote on Friday they would need to publicly notice the vote on Tuesday, absent a deal with Democrats.

The comments from Cornyn and Graham come after GOP members of the Judiciary Committee meet in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats slide in battle for Senate McConnell and wife confronted by customers at restaurant Pelosi, Schumer: Trump 'desperate' to put focus on immigration, not health care MORE's (R-Ky.) office on Monday night to discuss the details of Thursday's hearing. Grassley, leaving the meeting, said senators "just discussed the general situation."

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Congress should work with Trump and not 'cowboy' on Saudi Arabia, says GOP senator US to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK MORE (R-Utah), a former committee chairman and current member, told reporters before the meeting that senators would have a "markup at the end of the week."

"I'm ready to do whatever [Grassley] wants to do," he told reporters when asked if the committee would vote on Thursday or Friday. "I think he's ready to proceed and I think we ought to by now."

It's unclear if Kavanaugh has the support needed to win a favorable recommendation from the Judiciary Committee.

They hold a one-seat majority on the committee and GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump boosts McSally, bashes Sinema in Arizona Watch live: Trump speaks at Arizona rally Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi disappearance MORE (Ariz.) has yet to say how he will vote. If Flake voted "no," Kavanaugh could not be sent to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.

But GOP leadership has other procedural options for getting Kavanaugh to the full Senate. And McConnell said on Monday that he would get an "up or down vote" on the Senate floor.