Republicans Aim to Confirm Kavanaugh on Weekend

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans gained confidence on Thursday that his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, could win Senate confirmation after two wavering lawmakers responded positively to an FBI report released Thursday morning.

Republicans moved forward with plans for a key procedural vote on Friday and a final vote on Saturday on confirming the conservative federal appeals judge for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court.

The timing of the vote could be complicated by Republican Senator Steve Daines, whose office said on Thursday he planned to attend his daughter’s wedding in Montana on Saturday, making him unavailable to cast his vote.

Republicans control the Senate by a 51-49 margin. With Daines out of the picture, the party would need every other Republican to vote for Kavanaugh for him to be confirmed in a Saturday vote in the event all Democrats oppose him.

No Republicans have said they will vote against Kavanaugh, although four have not committed to supporting him.

Comments by two of them – Jeff Flake and Susan Collins – indicated the FBI report may have allayed their concerns about him. Flake, a frequent Trump critic, was instrumental in getting the president to order the FBI investigation last Friday.

Collins said the FBI investigation appeared to be thorough. Flake said he saw no additional corroborating information against Kavanaugh, although he was “still reading” it. Another undecided Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski, did not offer her view on the FBI report.

Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, wants to finish reading the report before he makes a decision, his spokesman Casey Contres told the Denver Post.

While the comments by Flake and Collins were positive, neither explicitly announced support for Kavanaugh.

The FBI report was not released to the public. Senators were allowed to read it behind closed doors in a secure location in the Capitol, without taking notes or making copies.

A senior Senate Republican aide said there was growing confidence that Collins, Flake and Manchin – all swing votes – would support Kavanaugh. If so, that could be enough for a Trump victory.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said the Trump administration was “fully confident” that Kavanaugh had the necessary support.