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Senate nears Kavanaugh approval after epic struggle

'Very, very difficult vote': The wavering senators who will decide if Brett Kavanaugh joins the Supreme Court

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of ME, who voted to advance Kavanaugh, said she will announce her decision on confirmation later Friday.

She praised his judicial record and argued there was no corroboration of sexual assault charges made against him by psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford. Kavanaugh vehemently denied all those claims.

Trump stood by Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge with a history of advancing Republican causes, and this week mocked Ford's account of what she says was a drunken attack on her by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers. "I believe he is a good man, it just may be that in my view he is not the right man for the court at this time", she added. There would be no way to make it acceptable.

There is no guarantee that the senators who supported moving forward will back Mr Kavanaugh on the final vote. You could see how hard she worked, how hard she was working.

Media captionDonald Trump's nominee has been embroiled in a bitter battle over sexual assault allegations.

Confirming Mr Kavanaugh to the lifetime post 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 over contentious issues such as abortion rights, immigration, and Mr Trump's attempt to ban transgender people from the United States military.

Kavanaugh was narrowly confirmed, 50-48.

Protesters prepare signs outside the Supreme Court near the U.S. Capitol in preparation for demonstrations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh to become a U.S. Supreme Court associate justice.

Republican presidents have nominated two women to the Supreme Court: Sandra Day O'Connor, who was confirmed after being nominated by President Reagan in 1981; and Harriet Miers, who President George W. Bush nominated and then withdrew following bipartisan criticism about her qualifications in 2005.

Republicans held open an empty seat that year, which Trump filled in 2017 with conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch.

In a twist, Murkowski stated her opposition but voted "present" as a courtesy to Kavanaugh supporter Sen.

That should have meant a 51-49 tally, but the absence of Republican Steve Daines, a yes voter who was at his daughter's wedding, altered the final figures.

Democrats don't seem to have the votes to keep Brett Kavanaugh from joining the Supreme Court, but that's not stopping them from taking to the Senate floor in a parade of speeches into the early morning against the conservative jurist. I'm glad that Judge Kavanaugh was heard, and that the FBI investigation was done. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. A live stream of the vote can be watched above via NBC News.

In a procedural vote Friday that handed Republicans a vital initial victory, senators voted 51-49 to limit debate, defeating Democratic efforts to scuttle the nomination with endless delays.