Senate rules and the expressed intentions of key Republicans have set the stage for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to ascend to the nation’s highest court just days removed from his emotional refutation of accusations on Capitol Hill.
A group of senators remained publicly undecided Thursday evening following the testimony of Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a woman accusing him of sexual assault. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley indicated to reporters Thursday night that he intended to press forward with a committee vote.
Grassley announced on Tuesday that he was scheduling a tentative vote on the committee for the nomination for Friday morning, a day after the panel would convene to hear from Ford and Kavanaugh.
After Thursday’s testimony, Grassley said, “We’re meeting at 9:30,” a reference to the committee’s scheduled meeting on Friday morning.
Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake sits on the committee, which contains 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, and had yet to say whether he would support Kavanaugh after Thursday’s hearing.
A pair of Republicans, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Sen. Bill Cassidy of Lousiana, said the party’s plan following the committee vote was for a procedural vote on the Senate floor this Saturday at noon.
Senate Republicans could bring Kavanaugh’s nomination to the floor even if the committee does not approve of it, although such a move would be unorthodox. Following the procedural move on the floor, Kavanaugh’s nomination would eventually face its official vote on the floor of the Senate.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said earlier this week that the GOP was aiming for a confirmation vote on this coming Tuesday. As with the committee, Republicans hold onto the full chamber by a slim margin. Fifty-one senators are Republicans, compared to the Democratic caucus’ 49 senators.
Under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the GOP invoked the so-called “nuclear option” to change Senate rules last year to allow for a simple majority vote to break filibusters on a Supreme Court nominee rather than the standard 60-vote threshold. The move gave the GOP room to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch and marked yet another step in the years-long partisan fight over judicial confirmation rules.
Because of this change, a simple majority — potentially including Vice President Mike Pence as a tie-breaking vote — would ultimately decide if Kavanaugh’s nomination goes through.