As senators continue Thursday to review the findings of an FBI investigation into some of the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a full senate vote for the embattled 53-year-old judge to take a seat on the highest court in the land is expected this weekend.
While some Republicans have said they are satisfied with the report, critics point out it’s far from a complete investigation. Democrats say the White House put numerous restrictions on who the FBI could interview, and the agency reportedly did not speak with multiple witnesses who say they could corroborate sexual abuse and other allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick. (Kavanaugh has denied all of the allegations.)
“I am horrified, but sadly not surprised at how the FBI investigation was handled,” a friend of Ford’s tells PEOPLE. “They were not given sufficient time, and were prevented from interviewing all credible and important witnesses.
“Justice has not been served,” the friend says, “and I am absolutely furious on behalf of my friend and all people who have been sexually assaulted.”
Here is a guide to what will be happening in the coming days:
On Friday, all 100 United States senators will hold a vote on what is called “cloture” — basically voting to see if they want to limit debate on Kavanaugh to 30 hours, and in essence moving him along to a final vote.
Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell filed a motion Wednesday to have Friday’s cloture vote, which is expected to pass.
The Pew Research Institution describes a cloture as an effort to “push presidential nominations past a recalcitrant minority” — and in this case, that minority is the Democrats, who number 49 (including two independents).
A simple majority of 51 is needed to pass the cloture motion.
Once that critical vote concludes, a final confirmation vote on Kavanaugh is expected up to 30 hours later, as early as Saturday.
A longtime Capitol Hill source explains the process to PEOPLE: “The Senate is debating the cloture motion now. They can debate today, and for one hour tomorrow after the Senate comes in. We don’t know what time they’ll come in. An hour after they come in, they will vote on cloture.
“If cloture is not invoked, it’s a moot point. If cloture is invoked, there can be up to 30 hours of proceedings after the vote takes place,” the source continues. “The senators don’t have to use up all 30 hours. There could be a vote on Saturday, or it could carry over a bit. There even could be a vote on Friday. There are some built-in uncertainties. The debate on cloture will not be a traditional debate, but will be a succession of statements from senators giving their points of view. Normally, the opposing leaders would come to an agreement and announce when the vote will be held. If they do have an agreement, it hasn’t been announced, which is why there is so much uncertainty.”
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HOW MANY VOTES ARE NEEDED FOR CONFIRMATION?
Kavanaugh needs a simple majority of 51 votes. The 51 Republicans in the Senate usually vote along party lines.
This simple majority rule wasn’t always in play. In 2013, Democrats voted to change the rule for presidential nominees, including judges, from needing 60 votes to obtain confirmation to 51.
WHAT ARE KAVANAUGH’S ODDS?
According to numerous reports, two of the three Republican senators who have indicated they may not vote along party lines now say they were satisfied with the FBI’s report.
If both Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake vote yes, Kavanaugh will be confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.
As Collins told The New York Times: “It appears to be a very thorough investigation, but I am going back later today to personally read the interviews. That’s all I have to say right now.”
Flake, whose concerns last week about Ford’s allegations of sexual assault during Senate testimony led to the FBI probe, told The Washington Post after seeing the FBI report that “we’ve seen no additional corroborating information.”
Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is the third key swing vote, and she has not declared how she will vote.
Following Ford’s moving testimony last week — when she described Kavanaugh attacking her when she was 15 and he 17 — she’s not been able to return home due to threats. Her future, a friend has told PEOPLE, is uncertain.
- With reporting by SUSAN KEATING