UPDATE – Senate confirms Kavanaugh to top US court

ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The Senate voted largely along party lines Saturday to narrowly confirm U.S. President Donald Trump's pick to America's top court, cementing a conservative majority on the bench for the foreseeable future.

The 50-48 vote saw Senator Lisa Murkowski being the sole Republican to break ranks with the party, voting present instead of casting a vote for or against Brett Kavanaugh. Republican Senator Joe Manchin joined with the rest of the Republicans to support the judge.

Republicans had a narrow needle to thread, holding only a one seat majority in the chamber amid mass controversy over Kavanaugh and the sexual assault allegations from at least three women, most notably from Christine Blasey Ford who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in late September, detailing Kavanaugh's alleged high school sexual assault in the 1980s in which she said she feared for her life.

Shortly after the vote, Trump embraced the Senate's approval, saying on Twitter, "I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court. Later today, I will sign his Commission of Appointment, and he will be officially sworn in. Very exciting!"

But not all were as enthusiastic about Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Dozens of protesters attempted to march up the Capitol's east steps, with some being arrested by Capitol Police amid chants of "no justice, no peace."

Kavanaugh's nomination, made in early July, has been dogged by controversy capped by Ford's oftentimes emotional testimony, and Kavanaugh's later fiery refutation in which he viscerally clashed with the Judiciary Committee's Democrats.

Trump and most Republicans have ardently stood behind Kavanaugh, who is replacing retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, the longtime centrist jurist.

With Kavanaugh's confirmation, the bench now solidly leans 5-4 to the right, losing a swing vote in favor of a justice with an established track record of conservative jurisprudence.

Kavanaugh is Trump's second confirmed Supreme Court pick, after Neil Gorsuch who took his seat in April.

Senate confirms Kavanaugh to top US court

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The Senate voted largely along party lines Saturday to narrowly confirm U.S. President Donald Trump's pick to America's top court, cementing a conservative majority on the bench for the foreseeable future.

The 50-48 vote saw Senator Lisa Murkowski being the sole Republican to break ranks with the party, voting present. Republican Senator Joe Manchin joined with the rest of the Republicans to support Brett Kavanaugh.

Republicans had a narrow needle to thread, holding only a one seat majority in the chamber amid mass controversy over Kavanaugh and the sexual assault allegations he faces.

UPDATE 2 – Kavanaugh clears hurdle on way to top US court

ADDS COLLINS VOTE ANNOUNCEMENT; UPDATES LEAD; REMOVE COLLINS TO VOTE GRAPH

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee got one step closer to receiving approval as his path to confirmation became more certain Friday.

The Senate voted along near party lines 51 – 49 to advance Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to a final confirmation vote before several key senators announced they would lend their support in a final confirmation vote expected as early as Saturday.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin joined 50 Republicans in voting for Kavanaugh in Friday's cloture vote, but Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski voted against advancing him alongside 46 Democrats and both of the chamber's independents.

The vote marks a key step for Kavanaugh whose confirmation has been mired in sexual assault allegations from at least three women, most notably from Christine Blasey Ford who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, detailing Kavanaugh's alleged high school sexual assault in the 1980s in which she said she feared for her life.

Republican Senator Susan Collins was one of at least three pivotal swing votes, alongside Manchin and Murkowski, whose support was crucial to determining whether Kavanaugh is able to assume a seat on America's highest court.

After voting "yes" to advance Kavanaugh through the Senate, Collins announced later Friday that she would vote to approve his confirmation.

Shortly after Collins’ announcement, Manchin said he would also vote “yes”.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who called for a one-week delay to allow for the FBI to probe sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, indicated he would vote for Kavanaugh as well after lending his support in Friday's procedural vote.

Democrats have taken issue with the FBI report, which they say is rushed and incomplete, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted in his unwavering support for Kavanaugh that the charges against him are "uncorroborated."

The stakes could not be higher for McConnell and U.S. President Donald Trump who nominated the conservative jurist in early July. If Kavanaugh is confirmed he would replace Anthony Kennedy, who long established himself to be the bench's swing vote on critical issues.

The top court would then lean solidly conservative 5-4.

UPDATE – Kavanaugh clears hurdle on way to top US court

ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT; UPDATES SUBHEAD

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee got one step closer to receiving approval Friday, but his path is still far from clear.

The Senate voted along near party lines 51 – 49 to advance Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to a final confirmation vote. But several key senators have yet to announce if they will lend their support on the vote that is expected to take place as early as Saturday.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin joined 50 Republicans in voting for Kavanaugh in Friday's cloture vote, but Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski voted against advancing him alongside 46 Democrats and both of the chamber's independents.

The vote marks a key step for Kavanaugh whose confirmation has been mired in sexual assault allegations from at least three women, most notably from Christine Blasey Ford who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, detailing Kavanaugh's alleged high school sexual assault in the 1980s in which she said she feared for her life.

Republican Senator Susan Collins is one of at least three pivotal swing votes, alongside Manchin, and Murkowski, who will determine whether Kavanaugh is able to assume a seat on America's highest court.

While Collins voted "yes" to advance Kavanaugh through the Senate, she said that did not signal how she would vote on his confirmation.

And even though Manchin voted "yes" as well, it is unclear how he will vote in the end.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who called for a one-week delay to allow for the FBI to probe sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, indicated Friday he would vote for Kavanaugh on Saturday after lending his support in the procedural vote.

Democrats have taken issue with the FBI report, which they say is rushed and incomplete, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted in his unwavering support for Kavanaugh that the charges against him are "uncorroborated."

The stakes could not be higher for McConnell and U.S. President Donald Trump who nominated the conservative jurist in early July. If Kavanaugh is confirmed he would replace Anthony Kennedy, who long established himself to be the bench's swing vote on critical issues.

The top court would then lean solidly conservative 5-4.

Collins is expected to announce later Friday her decision on Kavanaugh.

Trump lauded Friday's vote, saying in a tweet that he is "very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting 'YES' to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!"

Kavanaugh clears hurdle on way to top US court

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee got one step closer to receiving approval Friday, but his path is still far from clear.

The Senate voted along near party lines 51 – 49 to advance Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation. But several key senators have yet to announce their support in a final confirmation vote.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin joined 50 Republicans in voting for Kavanaugh, but Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski voted against advancing him alongside 46 Democrats and both of the chamber's independents.

The Senate is expected to vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation Saturday.

UPDATE – US: Kavanaugh clears committee, but FBI probe likely

ADDS REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP CONFIRMATION OF FBI PROBE BACKING IN GRAFS 4 -5

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – A key Republican senator from Arizona backed Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination Friday, allowing the judge to clear committee, but Jeff Flake called for a one week delay for a full chamber vote.

The delay is to allow time for the FBI to probe allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.

Republican leadership later agreed to the request, but it is unclear if U.S. President Donald Trump, who holds the sole power to order the FBI to investigate, would do so.

The Judiciary Committee said in a statement it is requesting Trump to instruct the FBI "to conduct a supplemental FBI background investigation."

"The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today," it said.

Maintaining the support of Flake along with swing vote Republican senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins is vital to Kavanaugh's odds to advance through the legislative body where Republicans hold a narrow one-seat majority, limiting their margin for error.

Flake suggested that without the FBI probe he would not throw his support behind Kavanaugh in a full senate vote, and shortly after Kavanaugh cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in a party line 11-10 vote Collins and Murkowski both said they support the delay.

Asked if he had a message for Murkowski and Collins, Trump told reporters at the White House "they have to do what they think is right."

"They have to be comfortable with themselves and I’m sure that’s what they want,” he said.

Trump has previously opposed having the FBI investigate Ford's allegations, and when asked about the one week delay he said, "I’m going to let the Senate handle that."

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who like Collins and Murkowski is also seen as a swing vote, also issued a statement backing Flake's call.

Friday's high-stakes developments come on the heels of gripping, oftentimes emotional hours-long testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh before the Judiciary Committee.

Ford dismissed suggestions Thursday that she could have confused the identity of the man who she says sexually assaulted her, maintaining it was Kavanaugh. He issued a livid denial of her allegations before the committee, insisting on his innocence.

But Ford was unwavering in her recollection of her attacker, telling the committee she was "100 percent” certain it was Kavanaugh who, along with high school friend Mark Judge in 1982, locked her in a room at a high school party and pinned her to a bed while attempting to forcibly undress her.

Judge is willing to cooperate with the FBI investigation, his lawyer said, according to multiple reports.

Trump said Friday he though Ford's testimony "was very compelling and she looks like a very fine woman to me."

"Certainly she was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects," he said.

The university professor is one of at least three women who have publicly charged Kavanaugh with sexual misconduct.

US: Kavanaugh clears committee, but FBI probe likely

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – A key Republican senator from Arizona backed Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination Friday, allowing the judge to clear committee, but Jeff Flake called for a one week delay for a full chamber vote.

The delay is to allow time for the FBI to probe allegations of sexual assault brought by Christine Blasey Ford.

It is unclear if Republican leadership will acquiesce to the request or if U.S. President Donald Trump, who holds the sole power to order the FBI to investigate, would do so.

Maintaining the support of Flake along with swing vote Republican senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins is vital to Kavanaugh's odds to advance through the legislative body where Republicans hold a narrow one-seat majority, limiting their margin for error.

Flake suggested that without the FBI probe he would not throw his support behind Kavanaugh in a full senate vote.

Shortly after Kavanaugh cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in a party line 11-10 vote, Murkowski reportedly threw her support behind the limited-scope FBI probe called for by Flake.

Asked if he had a message for Murkowski and Collins, Trump told reporters at the White House "they have to do what they think is right."

"They have to be comfortable with themselves and I’m sure that’s what they want,” he said.

Trump has previously opposed having the FBI investigate Ford's allegations, and when asked about the one week delay he said, "I’m going to let the Senate handle that."

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who like Collins and Murkowski is also seen as a swing vote, also issued a statement backing Flake's call.

Friday's high-stakes developments come on the heels of gripping, oftentimes emotional hours-long testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh before the Judiciary Committee.

Ford dismissed suggestions Thursday that she could have confused the identity of the man who she says sexually assaulted her, maintaining it was Kavanaugh. He issued a livid denial of her allegations before the committee, insisting on his innocence.

But Ford was unwavering in her recollection of her attacker, telling the committee she was "100 percent” certain it was Kavanaugh who, along with high school friend Mark Judge in 1982, locked her in a room at a high school party and pinned her to a bed while attempting to forcibly undress her.

Trump said Friday he though Ford's testimony "was very compelling and she looks like a very fine woman to me."

"Certainly she was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects," he said.

Republican effort to repeal Obamacare dead for now

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski effectively killed the new Republican effort to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, saying Tuesday she would not support the move.

Her announcement to reporters at the Capitol building brings the number of Republicans who will not support the measure to three, effectively ending the repeal-only effort.

Shelley Moore Capito and Susan Collins previously announced their opposition.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier Tuesday the Senate would vote on the straight repeal legislation, but lacking support, it’s unclear if that would still happen.

He was forced to take up the repeal-only legislation Monday when four Republicans abandoned their party’s plan to repeal and replace “Obamacare”.

A fuming President Donald Trump urged Republicans to “let Obamacare fail” shortly after the bill was officially dead in the water.

“We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it,” he said after successive Republican attempts to replace the universal health care legislation failed.

Republicans have long rallied around a “repeal and replace” mantra aimed at the Affordable Care Act, and Trump made the effort a centerpiece of his presidential campaign last year.

But putting rhetoric into action has proven difficult for the party.

McConnell could afford to lose only two members of his caucus in the Senate where Republicans hold a slim 52-seat majority.

A tie would result in Vice President Mike Pence casting a vote, which would almost certainly fall in line with his party’s leadership.