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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 McConnellKey Senate Republican: Criminal justice reform needs more GOP support GOP tensions running high on criminal justice bill Trump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference 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 HeitkampSchumer walking tightrope with committee assignments Banking panel showcases 2020 Dems Trump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSchumer to Trump: Future infrastructure bill must combat climate change Overnight Energy: Senate confirms controversial energy pick | EPA plans rollback of Obama coal emissions rule | GOP donor gave Pruitt K for legal defense Senate confirms Trump’s controversial energy pick MORE (W.Va.) remain undecided.

Meanwhile, GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House Judd Gregg: The last woman standing MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate advances Trump energy pick after Manchin flips The Senate must reject Bernard McNamee’s nomination for FERC Overnight Defense: Congress pauses to mourn George H.W. Bush | Haspel to brief senators on Khashoggi killing | Soldier is fourth to die from Afghan IED blast MORE (Alaska) have yet to say how they will vote on Kavanaugh. Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake: Republican Party ‘is a frog slowly boiling in water’ Tim Scott: Stop giving court picks with 'questionable track records on race' a Senate vote Flake stands firm on sending a ‘message to the White House’ on Mueller 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 TrumpCorsi sues Mueller for alleged leaks and illegal surveillance Comey: Trump 'certainly close' to being unindicted co-conspirator Trump pushes back on reports that Ayers was first pick for chief of staff 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 BluntNRCC breach exposes gaps 2 years after Russia hacks Senate panel advances Trump nominees for election agency Senate Republican: 'Big mistake' if Cohen lied to intelligence committee 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 DurbinTrump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform Political opposites come together for Bush funeral Live coverage: Washington honors George HW Bush with state funeral 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 KlobucharHillicon Valley: Huawei executive facing possible US fraud charges | Dem blames White House for failure of election security bill | FCC investigating wireless carriers over coverage data | Assange rejects deal to leave embassy Warner blames White House for election security bill not passing Congress Graham vows to push Trump’s AG pick through Judiciary Committee 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.