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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh heads toward final Senate vote

After partisan fight that gripped the country, lawmakers backed president Trump’s choice by 51 to 49 in a procedural vote

Republican Mitch McConnell is just one step away from pushing the nomination through the Senate. Bloomberg
Republican Mitch McConnell is just one step away from pushing the nomination through the Senate. Bloomberg

President Donald Trump’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh took a step toward joining the Supreme Court on Friday when the Senate approved him in a preliminary vote, despite accusations of sexual misconduct against the judge.

After a bitter partisan fight that gripped the country, lawmakers backed Mr Kavanaugh by 51 to 49 in a procedural vote that moved the Republican-controlled Senate toward a definitive decision on whether to confirm him.

The full confirmation vote could take place as early as Saturday.

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Given the result of Friday’s vote, federal appeals court judge Kavanaugh looked on track to get the lifetime job on the Supreme Court. But a change of heart by some lawmakers in the final vote would mean his confirmation could still be derailed.

Confirmation would hand Mr Trump a clear victory and tip the balance on the court to a 5-4 majority in favour of conservatives in possible legal battles ahead over contentious issues such as abortion rights, immigration, and Trump’s attempt to ban transgender people from the US military.

The Kavanaugh fight has riveted Americans weeks before November 6 elections in which Democrats are trying to take control of Congress from the Republicans.

What was already a sharply partisan battle became an intense political drama when university professor Christine Blasey Ford accused Mr Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school in Maryland in 1982. Two other women also made accusations of sexual misconduct by Mr Kavanaugh in the 1980s. He denied the allegations.

Mr Trump has praised the Senate vote, tweeting that he was “Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting “YES” to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!”

The president, who framed the nomination as a rallying issue for Republican voters at a Thursday night rally, has been keeping in close contact with staff and Republican allies in the Senate, the White House indicated.