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Sen. Mitch McConnell weighing his next move on the timing of Kavanaugh vote

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 19, 2018. CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 19, 2018. CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces a key deadline Wednesday to start the clock on a vote to confirm embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as early as Saturday.

But it remains unclear whether he will.

Under Senate rules, McConnell would have to act by Wednesday evening to set up a procedural vote on Kavanaugh for Friday, which would then allow for a final vote on the confirmation Saturday.

The Kentucky Republican’s decision is complicated. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, with the backing of fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, doesn’t want to start that clock until the FBI files its report on sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

And McConnell needs to make sure he has the votes of at least two of those three, assuming all Senate Democrats oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. That leaves little wiggle room.

McConnell is clearly frustrated by the delays and has promised to have a vote this week.

On the other hand, once McConnell starts the clock on confirmation votes, it could be hard to stop them, even if he doesn’t have the votes he needs for approval.

The temperature around the vote has gone up dramatically in the past 24 hours, with President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening mocking Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford at a campaign rally. He mimicked her dramatic testimony last week, emphasizing some of the details she could not remember and suggesting she had more than the one beer she recalled having.

“What neighborhood was it in? ‘I don’t know.’ Where’s the house? ‘I don’t know. Upstairs. Downstairs. I don’t know. But I had one beer, that’s the only thing I remember,’” Trump said, as the Mississippi audience laughed and applauded.

Ford says Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a 1982 party. He denied the allegation.

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All three undecided Republicans condemned Trump’s remarks. The White House insisted Trump was merely restating facts.

Asked if Trump was worried that his comments would jeopardize votes from swing Republican senators, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said no.

“I don’t think so. The president is very confident in his nominee, as he’s stated time and time again, and we expect the Senate to vote, and we hope they do that soon,” she said.

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