McConnell sets key Kavanaugh vote for Friday

Senate Republicans filed cloture on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination on Wednesday, paving the way for a weekend showdown over the Supreme Court.

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The move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days The case for censuring, and not impeaching, Donald Trump MORE (R-Ky.) will allow the chamber to vote on ending debate on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday under the chamber’s rules.

If Kavanaugh overcomes the procedural hurdle, the Senate could then take a final vote on his nomination as early as Saturday.

McConnell pledged earlier Wednesday that the chamber would vote on Kavanaugh this week, despite what he argued were attempts by Democrats to delay or stall the nomination.

“There will be plenty of time for Members to review and be briefed on this supplemental material before a Friday cloture vote. So I am filing cloture on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination this evening so the process can move forward, as I indicated earlier this week," McConnell said.

The decision to pave the way for a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination comes as he remains short of the simple majority needed to be confirmed based on senators' public positions.

Republicans hold a slim 51-seat majority, meaning they could lose one GOP senator before they need help from Democrats to get Kavanaugh past procedural roadblocks and confirmed to the Supreme Court.

No Democrat has said they will support Kavanaugh, though Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinNo one wins with pro-abortion litmus test Senate confirms Brouillette to replace Perry as Energy secretary Political purity tests are for losers MORE (W.Va.) remain undecided.

Meanwhile, GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days Lawmakers call for investigation into program meant to help student loan borrowers with disabilities MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days The Hill's Morning Report - Dem impeachment report highlights phone records Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members MORE (Alaska) have yet to say how they will vote on Kavanaugh. Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ariz.) previously said he would support Kavanaugh and, absent new information from the FBI’s background investigation into several sexual misconduct allegations, is expected to be a yes vote.

The senators have previously voted to end debate, even if they didn’t ultimately support the nominee, meaning McConnell would likely have the votes to end debate on Kavanaugh’s nomination as early as Friday.

But Republicans would need two of out of the three swing votes to support Kavanaugh if every Democrat opposes him in order to get the 50 votes needed for Vice President Pence to break a tie and confirm him.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE’s apparent mocking of Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s first accuser, heightened already elevated tensions in the Senate on Wednesday. Collins called Trump's remarks “plain wrong,” while Murkowski said they were “wholly inappropriate.”

Republicans appeared confident that, barring an eleventh hour bombshell spinning out of the FBI’s investigation, they would get the votes needed to confirm Kavanaugh.

“If the report doesn’t come up with anything different than we know now not only will the president continue to support Judge Kavanaugh, but I think he’d have the votes to be confirmed,” GOP Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Overnight Defense: Trump cancels presser, cuts short NATO trip | Viral video catches leaders appearing to gossip about Trump | Dem witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses | Trump reportedly mulling more troops in Middle East Trump legal team gears up for Senate impeachment trial in meeting with GOP senators MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, told KMOX, a Missouri radio station.

Senators had expected to be able to start viewing copies of the FBI report on Wednesday, but Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSupreme Court poised to hear first major gun case in a decade Protecting the future of student data privacy: The time to act is now Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban MORE (D-Ill.) said that would slip into Thursday and senators would have to share a single copy, which would be kept in a secure facility behind closed doors.

McConnell added on Wednesday evening that the chamber will receive the background investigation on Wednesday evening and Judiciary Committee staff will be able to brief members.

“This evening, the Senate will receive the results of the FBI’s supplemental background investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. This is now the seventh time the FBI has looked into Judge Kavanaugh’s background. And this information comes on top of what has already been one of the most thorough, most exhaustive Senate reviews of any Supreme Court nominee in our nation’s history," McConnell said. 

He added that senators will have the update to the background investigation and the "opportunity to review the investigators’ records."

McConnell's move immediately drew criticism from Democrats, progressive groups and a woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

Attorneys for Ford  slammed the FBI's investigation for not interviewing Ford or witnesses to back up her testimony.

"An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony — cannot be called an investigation. … Those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth," Ford's counsel said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharCastro hits fundraising threshold for December debate Klobuchar lauds power of free press in post about her father The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi says House will move forward with impeachment MORE (D-Minn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee who opposes Kavanaugh, said McConnell filed cloture even though senators "haven’t (as of now) even seen the FBI report yet."

Faiz Shakir, national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said McConnell's decision was "premature and rash."

"It is outrageous that the Leader would decide that senators have enough information to end debate when they have not comprehensively reviewed the scope of the investigation or its results," he added.

-- Updated 11:50 p.m.