WASHINGTON — The Senate could decide Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s fate as soon as this weekend.
Lawmakers are currently on track to take a key procedural vote on Friday, which could be a make-or-break moment for the nomination, with a final confirmation vote possible on Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the process in motion last night by filing cloture on the nomination, but the exact timing of votes may hinge on what happens over the next 24 or so hours as Republicans and Democrats review the findings of an FBI investigation into allegations against the nominee.
It’s not yet clear if Kavanaugh has the votes needed for confirmation, but Senate Republicans expressed confidence on Thursday that the FBI did not uncover any damaging information as they pressed ahead to a vote.
“None of the allegations have been corroborated .. not in the new FBI investigation, not anywhere,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday, adding, “I’ll be proud to vote to advance this nomination tomorrow.”
Five key senators — Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine and Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — have not yet indicated how they will vote on the nomination and have said they were awaiting the results of the FBI inquiry before making up their minds. Some or all of those senators could announce how they plan to vote Thursday or they may wait until Friday’s initial vote to show their hand.
Senate Republicans only need a simple majority — or 50 votes if all 100 senators vote and Vice President Mike Pence breaks a tie — to successfully clear the procedural hurdle set up by Friday’s initial vote and move forward to a final vote.
The final confirmation vote must meet the same threshold to be successful after the GOP invoked the so-called “nuclear option” to allow for a simple majority vote to break filibusters on a Supreme Court nominee rather than the standard 60-vote threshold. That move helped Republicans confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch and marked another step in a years-long partisan fight over judicial confirmation rules.
If Republicans have enough votes during Friday’s initial vote to move forward to a final confirmation vote on Saturday that may mean enough votes are locked in to confirm Kavanaugh. As a result, Friday’s vote will be viewed as a critical test of whether the nomination can succeed.
Still, there could be uncertainty over the final outcome until the very last minute.
Even if the Senate clears Friday’s procedural hurdle, it doesn’t necessarily mean Kavanaugh will win confirmation since a senator could vote to move forward, but ultimately decide not to support the nomination during the final vote.
Whatever happens, it looks like the contentious battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination will soon be over, even as Democrats continue to protest the way Senate Republicans handled the confirmation proceedings and the investigation into allegations against the nominee.
The FBI began its investigation into allegations facing Kavanaugh last week after Flake called for the inquiry with the backing of Collins and Murkowski. Lawmakers are now reviewing the findings of the inquiry.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, reaffirmed his support for Kavanaugh on Thursday after reviewing the results of the investigation and called for the Senate to vote.
“I’ve now received a committee staff briefing on the FBI’s supplement to Judge Kavanaugh’s background investigation file. There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know,” he said, adding: “It’s time to vote.”