WASHINGTON ― Senate Republicans are pushing forward on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) setting up the full Senate vote even before the FBI concludes its investigation or it’s clear Kavanaugh has enough support.
On Wednesday night, McConnell filed cloture, calling for a vote to end debate on Kavanaugh on Friday, with a final vote possible as soon as Saturday, if Republicans clear the procedural hurdle.
The nominee’s fate is still up in the air. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) all say they’re undecided on Kavanaugh, though an inconclusive FBI report could be the impetus for any of these senators to back him.
Senate GOP leadership doesn’t intend to make the FBI report on Kavanaugh public, and Republicans who want to release it don’t seem willing to force McConnell’s hand. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who’s supported a public report for days now, suggested that he had no say in the matter and that the decision was “above my pay grade.”
When HuffPost asked if he’d consider withholding his support for Kavanaugh until a version of the report was made public, Kennedy responded, “No, that’s silly.”
Republicans generally have made up their minds on Kavanaugh, barring some massive development in an FBI report focusing on the allegations of a sexual assault 36 years ago. The FBI is unlikely to turn up many conclusive findings, and Republicans don’t seem all that receptive to arguments that the nominee has committed perjury or displayed a lack of judicial temperament in his fiery and partisan testimony.
Murkowski told reporters on Wednesday that she was taking “everything into account” on Kavanaugh, including President Donald Trump’s Tuesday night comments attacking accuser Christine Blasey Ford. Murkowski called those comments “wholly inappropriate.”
But Republicans have thus far shown incredible tolerance for both Kavanaugh’s outright lies and the president’s mockery.
There wasn’t a shortage of Republicans willing to criticize Trump ― lightly, in the Senate Republican way ― for his taunts about Ford’s inability to remember some details from the night of the alleged assault. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he “didn’t particularly like” Trump’s attacks.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.