Kavanaugh confirmation could cost Republicans majority in Congress

Donald Trump

McConnell takes key step toward vote on Kavanaugh nomination

The U.S. Senate is poised to take a crucial vote Friday on whether to advance Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court as key Republican senators remain undecided amid allegations of sexual misconduct and intense protests that have divided the nation. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, called for an FBI investigation into the allegations last week.

"We believe Christine Ford" banners, unfurled at a Senate office building where police began arresting hundreds of protesters staging a sit-in.

With Republicans clinging to a razor-thin 51-49 Senate majority and five senators - including three Republicans - still publicly undeclared, the conservative jurist's prospects of Senate confirmation could hinge largely on the file's contents.

The protesters include a loud contingent from ME, and they're calling on Susan Collins, a key Republican senator, to vote against Kavanaugh.

But crucially, two key Republican senators who are yet to say how they will vote - Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of ME - made positive comments about the probe, which was taken by some to be a sign that they were leaning towards a "yes".

The FBI has been criticized by some Ford supporters for conducting an investigation they consider to be superficial and much too short.

Kavanaugh, 53, now a judge on the powerful District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, has denied the claims.

Mr Kavanaugh has said stories of bad behaviour while drinking are exaggerated.

Speaking to reporters after reviewing the FBI report, Collins said it "appears to be a very thorough investigation". The spokesman did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Kavanaugh explained that he met with "65 senators and explained my approach to the law".

The White House's position indicates a push from Kavanaugh's backers for quick action on the nomination, which has verged on collapse at times by the weight of mounting sexual misconduct allegations.There will now be even more pressure on undecided Republican senators ahead of the test vote on Kavanaugh's nomination.

West Virginia's Joe Manchin, the other undeclared Democrat, spent time looking at the report and said he would resume reading it on Friday.

Kavanaugh's chances improved Thursday in the wake of an Federal Bureau of Investigation report on sexual misconduct allegations against him deemed thorough by Republicans Senate leaders and incomplete by Democrats. Lindsey Graham of SC, who has emerged as the Republicans' most powerful voice on the nomination.

Kavanaugh stressed that "a good judge must be an umpire-a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no political party, litigant or policy" and who is not "swayed by public pressure". The group says in a statement that at last week's dramatic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, he showed "extreme partisan bias", demonstrating he lacks the temperament to join the high court.

"I don't remember", he said repeatedly, mocking Dr Ford's testimony.

The judiciary committee voted to advance Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate, which is expected to attempt a vote Friday.

He wrote that his testimony "reflected my overwhelming frustration at being wrongly accused".

"I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said", he wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial.

Trump has stoked outrage over the Kavanaugh hearing on the campaign trail, enthusiastically using it as Exhibit A in why Republicans need to retain control of Congress.

Kavanaugh's nomination has become a flashpoint in the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault. Notably absent from the witness list are Kavanaugh and Ford.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed by the Senate in a vote planned for Saturday, Trump will have succeeded in placing his second justice on the top USA court and fulfilled his pledge to solidify its conservative majority.

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