US Senate braces for key vote on embattled court nominee

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The US Senate girded Friday for a critical, too- close-to-call vote on moving ahead with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, as Republicans brushed aside complaints by Democrats that a new FBI probe of sexual assault allegations against him was rushed and incomplete.

A final vote could come Saturday on President Donald Trump’s embattled candidate, who if approved would seal a conservative majority on the nine-seat court for decades.

It is not a done deal, however. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the chamber and three of their members are seen as undecided on Kavanaugh, as a confirmation process that has gripped the city and the nation and aggravated already deep political divisions reaches its climax with just weeks to go before mid-term elections.

Under new rules approved last year, 50 votes are needed for victory in Friday’s procedural vote. It is on ending debate on the confirmation and moving to a formal and definitive confirmation vote.

The vote is expected around 10:30 am (1430 GMT). That same threshold of 50 also applies to the final confirmation vote.

Thursday was a day of high drama and emotion in Washington: protesters swamped Capitol Hill and roamed the corridors of the Senate to lobby lawmakers who took turns in a secure basement room reviewing a single copy of the new FBI report on Kavanaugh.

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