Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a cloture on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh late Wednesday, paving the way for a Friday procedural vote and - if Kavanaugh clears the procedural hurdle - a final vote as early as Saturday.
McConnell touched off the process late Wednesday and announced that sometime during the evening, the FBI would deliver to an anxious Senate the potentially fateful document on claims that Kavanaugh sexually abused women, according to the AP. With Republicans clinging to a razor-thin 51-49 majority and five senators — including three Republicans — still vacillating, the conservative jurist’s prospects of Senate confirmation remained in doubt and potentially dependent on the file’s contents, which are supposed to be kept secret.
"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.
So far, no Democrat has said they will support Kavanaugh though Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) remain undecided. Meanwhile, GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have yet to say how they will vote on Kavanaugh. Sen. Jeff Flake (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, although Flake may revised his initial contract and claim that the FBI probe was not exhaustive enough.
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 to let Vice President Pence break a tie and confirm him.
Trump’s apparent mocking of Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s first accuser, heightened already elevated tensions around the Senate on Wednesday. Collins called them “plain wrong,” while Murkowski says they were “wholly inappropriate.” Still, republicans appeared confident that absent an 11th hour bombshell spinning out of the FBI’s investigation they would get the votes 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 Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, told KMOX, a Missouri radio station.
Meanwhile, as reported earlier, Senators had expected to be able to start viewing copies of the FBI report on Wednesday, but Sen. Dick Durbin said that would slip into Thursday and senators would need to share one copy, which would be kept in a secure facility behind closed doors.
McConnell said 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."
The general public will not have access to the report, although it will be only a matter of time before some Senator leaks the full contents of the FBI investigation.