The US Senate is expected to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court judge, offering President Donald Trump a big political win and tilting the nation’s high court decidedly to the right.
The Senate vote on Saturday, set to begin after 1930 GMT, will bring an end to a raucous nomination process defined by harrowing testimony from a woman who says Kavanaugh tried to rape her when they were teenagers, and his fiery rebuttal.
A contentious Senate committee hearing, during which Dr Christine Blasey Ford testified, led to a limited FBI investigation into the allegations.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation was all but sealed on Friday when he won the support of key Senate Republican Susan Collins of Maine and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin.
Their statements of support brought the number of senators supporting Kavanaugh to 51 in the 100-member chamber.
Could Kavanaugh case affect the US midterm elections?
But Collins, the senior senator from Maine, looks poised to fight a tough re-election campaign in 2020 because of her decision to back Kavanaugh.
A crowdfunding effort for her challenger – who has not been selected – raised well over $2m. The money will only be collected if Collins votes to confirm Kavanaugh. Collins called the campaign “bribery”.
Collins is not the only politician facing a tough choice over their support for Kavanaugh.
The SCOTUS nominee is assumed to be an anti-abortion choice for the court. According to a Washington-based news site The Hill, many anti-abortion Democrats are shying away from their previous stance on reproductive rights, fearing a backlash from the Kavanaugh hearings.
No democrat in a competitive race for a seat in the US House of Representatives is running on a “pro-life” platform, The Hill said.
During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination, Republican Senator Jeff Flake was confronted by a survivor of sexual assault, who implored Flake not to support the nominee. The act, which took place in an elevator, was filmed and shared widely.
Now, other demonstrators and survivors of sexual assault have taken to similar actions to demand that senators not support Kavanaugh.
In turn, Republicans adopted a line from the European far-right, claiming, without evidence, these protesters were paid by Jewish Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros.
Trump tweeted the “very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it!”
He then said the “elevator screamers” received payment from Soros and others.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas adopted a similar line on Friday, saying the Senate “will not be bullied by the screams of paid protesters and name-calling by the mob”.
Senate rules allow for 30 hours of debate before the final vote, which is divided equally between both parties.
If both parties decline to use their allotted time, the debate could end before the 30 hours are used.