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 McConnellMcConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster Hickenlooper announces Senate bid Trump orders elimination of student loan debt for thousands of disabled veterans 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 HeitkampPence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Green groups sue Trump over Endangered Species Act changes | Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency | Wildfires in Amazon rainforest burn at record rate Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency out west GOP senator: Gun control debate 'hasn't changed much at all' back home MORE (W.Va.) remain undecided.

Meanwhile, GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost Collins downplays 2020 threat: 'Confident' reelection would go well if she runs Cook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Green groups sue Trump over Endangered Species Act changes | Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency | Wildfires in Amazon rainforest burn at record rate Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency out west The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE (Alaska) have yet to say how they will vote on Kavanaugh. Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid Arpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument 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 TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' 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 BluntGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity GOP group targets McConnell over election security bills in new ad 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 DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks 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 KlobucharOvernight Defense: Two US service members killed in Afghanistan | Trump calls on other nations to take up fight against ISIS | Pentagon scraps billion-dollar missile defense program ABC unveils moderators for third Democratic debate Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill 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.