Published 9:26 PM EDT Sep 27, 2018
WASHINGTON – Republican leaders scheduled a Friday vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, following a day-long hearing in which senators heard testimony from a woman who alleges he sexually assaulted her when they were teens.
However, it was unclear whether Republicans had the votes to confirm the nominee after an emotional hearing where Christine Blasey Ford detailed her allegations that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and tried to remove her clothes at a party when they were both teens. Kavanaugh vehemently denied the allegations.
Friday's vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. If the committee approves the nomination, it would then go to the full Senate. Kavanaugh's appointment could be approved as early as Tuesday.
“I think it’s time to vote,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters immediately after the hearing.
Whether Kavanaugh survives may depend on a handful of Republican senators. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both supporters of abortion rights, have remained noncommittal. So has Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a member of the judiciary panel and frequent critic of Trump who is not seeking re-election.
All three went out of their way Thursday evening to avoid reporters in the halls of the Capitol. Murkowski even had a separate car pick her up on the opposite side of the building. She didn't answer shouted questions about her vote.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said he was unsure how a vote to confirm Kavanaugh would play out. “I don’t know if they have enough votes but they think it deserves a vote,” he said.
Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee she was "100 percent" confident Kavanaugh was the person who held her down and tried to remove her clothes at a party when they were both teens in 1982. She said the episode had haunted her for decades.
In testimony that was both fiery and at times tearful, Kavanaugh said the sexual assault allegations had harmed his family and his name. He professed his innocence and accused Democrats of "character assassination." Kavanaugh also pledged to fight for this nomination, saying: "you'll never get me to quit."
Confirmation by Kavanaugh would be an important milestone for Republicans and the president as it would tilt the balance of power on the high court to conservatives.
But Democrats have pointed to the array of accusations and lack of an FBI investigation as a reason to slow down the hearing, potentially allowing more accusations to surface.
More: The top moments from Thursday's emotional testimony by Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Ford
More: An unwavering Christine Ford: I'm '100 percent' sure that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted me
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President Donald Trump voiced his support for a Friday vote on Twitter, saying Kavanaugh's testimony was "powerful, honest, and riveting."
"Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him," the president said. "Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!"
More: Brett Kavanaugh: How quickly could he be confirmed to the Supreme Court?
More: Analysis: On Kavanaugh vs. Ford, a Supreme Court showdown hinges on whom you believe
Friday's vote is an important step in the process but even if Kavanaugh is rejected by the committee it’s not final. There have been cases where a nominee has been brought up in the full Senate without committee approval.
If the committee approves Kavanaugh's nomination, or if the nomination is sent to the floor without a recommendation, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could make a motion on Saturday to end debate.
Unless there is unanimous consent to waive the rules, McConnell, R-Ky., would have to wait until Monday at the earliest for a vote on that motion. The rules say at least 30 hours must pass after the procedural motion passes. That means if the motion to end debate were held early Monday, the final vote could come late in the day Tuesday.
Passage would require the same 51 votes for passage – or a 50-50 vote with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie – as the confirmation vote.