State of play on Kavanaugh confirmation: McConnell preparing to hold votes

All eyes are on the FBI as it works to complete its probe of the allegations leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making clear he’s prepared to hold votes on Kavanaugh’s nomination in the coming days.

“The Senate will vote on Judge Kavanaugh here on this floor this week,” McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

It’s not clear when McConnell will “file cloture” or move to end debate on the Kavanaugh nomination, but it appears possible the Senate could hold a final vote on the nominee sometime this weekend -- unless the FBI corroborates the allegations.

The state of play on the nomination process: The Senate already is technically considering the Kavanaugh nomination, though there’s been no formal floor debate yet.

It’s believed that McConnell could to move to end debate on Wednesday at the earliest. Once McConnell makes this move, the Senate starts a four-, perhaps five-day calendar to complete the nomination.

A senior Senate GOP source told Fox News they were told the FBI probe could be wrapped by Tuesday, though President Trump has given the bureau until Friday to complete its supplemental background check. Fox News is told the bureau has completed its interview of Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge but has not yet contacted Christine Blasey Ford, who accused the judge of sexual assault. He denies it.

An open question is whether McConnell would start the process to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination before the FBI probe is complete.

It’s unclear whether such a maneuver would be welcome by Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. The triumvirate of Flake, Collins, Murkowski were the impetus for the limited background investigation, and are considered crucial swing votes in Kavanaugh’s nomination.

DEMS ACCUSED OF MOVING GOALPOSTS ON KAVANAUGH AFTER FBI PROBE ORDERED

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, expressed his appreciation that these Republican senators delayed the Kavanaugh vote by calling for the FBI probe. The original plan had been for McConnell to launch a parliamentary sequence over the weekend which likely would have resulted in a confirmation vote by early this week.

“Leader McConnell has said we'll plow right through the recent allegations,” Schumer said. “Fortunately some members on his side of the aisle didn't want to plow right through.”

Kavanaugh, who has denied accusations that he attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford during a party in high school in the 1980s, needs 51 votes in the Senate to be confirmed.

At this point, Kavanaugh is believed to have 48 hard "yea" votes. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is unannounced but is not believed to be opposed. Other than Flake, Collins and Murkowski, two red state Democrats up for re-election this year -- Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. -- are thought to be potential "yea" votes. That means Kavanaugh could possibly score as many as 53 yeas.