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Senate Republicans won a key vote Friday to advance embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to his final confirmation vote.
The majority-Republican Senate voted 51-49 to end debate on Kavanaugh, setting him up for his final hurdle on his path to the high court. One Democrat and one Republican voted against their parties, but another GOP senator, Susan Collins, said she would announce her final stance on the judge later in the afternoon.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, a key swing vote who has kept her decision on Kavanaugh under wraps, voted against the cloture motion. On the Democratic side, Sen. Joe Manchin of deep-red West Virginia voted for it.
Collins and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., two other closely watched GOP lawmakers, both voted yes on cloture.
Collins had announced how she would vote a few hours earlier. She told reporters that she would say whether or not she would to confirm Kavanaugh at 3 p.m. ET on Friday.
After the cloture vote, Murkowski told an NBC News reporter that she had changed her mind about the judge on the way to the vote.
The procedural vote was scheduled a day after senators viewed a non-public FBI report on allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.
The supplemental probe of the high court nominee — his seventh in total — was ordered last week by President Donald Trump after Flake said it would be "proper" to allow up to seven days for the feds to look into some of the claims against Kavanaugh.
Republicans touted the FBI's final report, which they said showed "no hint" of misconduct by Kavanaugh. But Democrats and opponents of Kavanaugh called foul, suggesting Trump's "limited in scope" order was insufficient.
Murkowski, who does not face re-election until 2022, told reporters outside the Senate chamber that the cloture vote itself was "a mistake," adding that "we'll see what happens tomorrow," NBC News reported.
Trump tweeted his approval about the outcome of the vote a few minutes after the gavel was struck.
While Kavanaugh, a conservative appellate judge and former member of the Federalist Society, faced heated opposition from Democrats as soon as he was picked by Trump, he was expected to face few obstacles in Congress on the way to the high court bench.
But both his candidacy and his reputation were jeopardized in mid-September, after a letter surfaced from psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when the two were teenagers.
Ford, now 51, said an intoxicated Kavanaugh held her on a bed, covered her mouth with hand and tried to take her clothes off.
Kavanaugh, 53, categorically denied the allegations against him. In defiant testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Kavanaugh said "I've never sexually assaulted anybody."
His testimony, however, opened him up to questions about his impartiality and temperament, as his opening statement included partisan attacks against Democrats. In an attempt to quell these concerns, he defended his testimony in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Yet he also wrote that he "might have been too emotional at times," and acknowledged that his "tone was sharp."
This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.