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 McConnellHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony McCarthy, McConnell say they didn't watch Jan. 6 hearing 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 HeitkampJoe Manchin's secret Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Effective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy: Manchin grills Haaland over Biden oil and gas review | Biden admin reportedly aims for 40 percent of drivers using EVs by 2030 |  Lack of DOD action may have caused 'preventable' PFAS risks Manchin grills Haaland over Biden oil and gas moratorium Feehery: It's time for Senate Republicans to play hardball on infrastructure MORE (W.Va.) remain undecided.

Meanwhile, GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: CDC advises vaccinated to wear masks in high-risk areas | Biden admin considering vaccine mandate for federal workers Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Crunch time for bipartisan plan; first Jan. 6 hearing today MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiEight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division Manchin grills Haaland over Biden oil and gas moratorium The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Crunch time for bipartisan plan; first Jan. 6 hearing today MORE (Alaska) have yet to say how they will vote on Kavanaugh. Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots 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 TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit 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 BluntEight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division The Hill's Morning Report - Will Schumer back down on his deadline? GOP fumes over Schumer hardball strategy 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 DurbinDick DurbinBiden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Senators scramble to save infrastructure deal Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines 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 KlobucharOvernight Health Care: CDC advises vaccinated to wear masks in high-risk areas | Biden admin considering vaccine mandate for federal workers Four senators call on Becerra to back importation of prescription drugs from Canada Biden signals tough stance on tech with antitrust picks 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.