Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, and his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, hold hands as they arrive for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Kavanaugh nomination clears procedural hurdle

The U.S. Senate expected to have final vote on Brett Kavanaugh over the weekend

A deeply divided Senate pushed Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination past a key procedural hurdle Friday, setting up a likely final showdown on Saturday in a spellbinding battle that’s seen claims of long-ago sexual assault by the nominee threaten President Donald Trump’s effort to tip the court rightward for decades.

The Senate voted 51-49 to limit debate, defeating Democratic efforts to scuttle the nomination with endless delays and moving the chamber toward a climax of a fight that has captivated the country since summer. With Republicans controlling the chamber 51-49, one Republican voted to stop the nomination, one Democrat to send it further.

Of the four lawmakers who had not revealed their decisions until Friday — all moderates — Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona voted yes, as did Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted not to move the nomination ahead.

While the vote was a victory for the GOP, lawmakers can vote differently on the climactic confirmation roll call, which seems likely Saturday afternoon. Collins told reporters she would announce later Friday how she would go.

That left unclear whether Friday’s tally signalled that the 53-year-old federal appellate judge was on his way to the nation’s highest court, though it would be unusual for lawmakers to switch their votes on such a high-profile issue.

Confirmation would be a crowning achievement for Trump, his conservative base and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Murkowski sat solemnly during the roll call and whispered “No” when it was her turn to vote. As the tally neared an end, she spoke with Collins, a friend. The pair was surrounded by colleagues from both parties after the vote.

All four lawmakers who’d been undeclared said little or nothing to reporters as they left the chamber.

Trump weighed in shortly after the roll call was announced, tweeting, “Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting ‘YES’ to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!”

Vice-President Mike Pence, who could have broken a 50-50 tie, watched the vote from the White House. He is heading to New York for a congressional fundraiser Friday but planned to be back in Washington for the final vote.

Friday’s procedural vote occurred a day after the Senate received a roughly 50-page FBI report on the sexual assault allegations, which Trump ordered only after wavering GOP senators forced him to do so.

Republicans said the secret document — which described interviews agents conducted with 10 witnesses — failed to find anyone who could corroborate allegations by his two chief accusers, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. Democrats belittled the bureau’s findings, saying agents constrained by the White House hadn’t reached out to numerous other people with potentially important information.

The vote occurred against a backdrop of smouldering resentment by partisans on both sides. That fury was reflected openly by thousands of boisterous anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators who bounced around the Capitol complex for days, confronting senators in office buildings and even reportedly near their homes.

On the Senate floor, lawmakers’ comments underscored the lingering bitterness.

“What left wing groups and their Democratic allies have done to Judge Kavanaugh is nothing short of monstrous,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said on the chamber’s floor before the vote. He accused Democrats of using destructive, unwarranted personal attacks on the nominee and even encouraging the protesters, saying, “They have encouraged mob rule.”

Dianne Feinstein of California, that committee’s top Democrat, said Kavanaugh’s testimony at last week’s dramatic Judiciary panel hearing should “worry us all,” citing “a hostility and belligerence that is unbecoming” of a Supreme Court nominee.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the fight “a sorry epilogue to the brazen theft of Justice Scalia’s seat.” That reflected Democrats’ lasting umbrage over Republicans’ 2016 refusal to even consider Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia.

When Trump nominated Kavanaugh in July, Democrats leapt to oppose him, saying that past statements and opinions showed he’d be a threat to the Roe v. Wade case that assured the right to abortion. They said he also seemed ready to knock down President Barack Obama’s health care law and to rule for Trump if federal authorities probing his 2016 campaign’s connections to Russia initiate legal action.

But that evolved into a late-summer spectacle after Ford accused Kavanaugh of trying to rape her at an alcohol-infused high school gathering in 1982, when both were teenagers. Two other women also emerged and accused him of other incidents of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh has denied all the charges.

Under pressure from wavering Republicans, GOP leaders agreed to an extraordinary Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week that mesmerized the nation as Ford nervously recounted her story and said she was “100 per cent” certain that Kavanaugh was her attacker.

A fuming Kavanaugh strode into the same packed hearing room that afternoon and said he, too, was “100 per cent” certain the incident had not occurred. He angrily accused Democrats of a “search and destroy” mission, fueled by their hatred of Trump.

AP reporters Mary Clare Jalonick, Matthew Daly, Padmananda Rama, Kenneth Thomas and Catherine Lucey contributed.

Lisa Mascaro And Alan Fram, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WCPS uses cannabis legislation to fully review drug, alcohol and tobacco policies

Cannabis is not permitted in schools; WCPS focused on providing education and support

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

Alberta readies itself for cannabis sales with 17 stores (for now) and a new provincial website

Ponoka mayor & council takes on province for recreation funding

Mayor Rick Bonnett wants school requisition for three years

Ponoka County on the hook for rubber tire shredder

Cost of large shredder may yet fall completely on county as problems arise

Ponoka council approved a cannabis retail sales bylaw

Along with retail sales, the cannabis consumption bylaw was approved

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Test case challenges a politician’s right to block people from Twitter account

3 people say Watson infringed their constitutional right to freedom of expression by blocking them

Legalized marijuana sparks conversation on social stigmas

Ponoka area resident Mitchell Calkins enjoyed some cannabis on the first day of legalization

After 50 years, ‘Sesame Street’ Big Bird puppeteer retiring

The puppeteer who has played Big Bird on “Sesame Street” is retiring after nearly 50 years on the show.

Britain, EU decide to take some time in getting Brexit right

Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “we need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks.”

Parole denied for convicted killer-rapist Paul Bernardo after 25 years in prison

Paul Bernardo plead for release on Wednesday by arguing he has done what he could to improve himself during his 25 years in prison.

B.C. Lions look to cement CFL playoff spot with victory over Eskimos

B.C. can cement a post-season berth in the wild West Division on Friday night with a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos

Canada ban on asbestos takes effect but mining residues are exempt

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna plans to announce the new regulations implementing the ban on Thursday in Ottawa

UPDATE: Aurora Rafer has been found unharmed

RCMP have a man in custody and continue to investigate

Most Read