Senators voted 51-49 to officially end debate on Kavanaugh's confirmation and begin counting down to the final vote, tentatively set for 4:30 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday.
While the "cloture" vote is just a procedural step, it's the first time the full Senate has voted on Kavanaugh. It offers a little insight into how wavering senators feel about advancing his nomination, though senators could potentially vote no for the final confirmation after voting yes in the procedural vote.
Four senators still haven't said how they'll vote ― Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Three of the four would need to vote no to block the confirmation.
Murkowski voted no on the procedural vote; Flake, Collins and Manchin voted yes.
Collins said she will announce if she intends to vote for Kavanaugh in a speech on the Senate floor at 3 p.m. Eastern time Friday. Manchin said Friday he would not speak about his decision until the final vote occurs.
President Donald Trump said after the procedural vote that he was "very proud."
Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting "YES" to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2018
Since Christine Blasey Ford came forward last month to accuse Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were high school students in the 1980s, the nomination has effectively become a referendum on whether senators believe Ford or Kavanaugh. He has denied her allegations, as well as allegations of sexual misconduct from two other women.
Ford testified about her memory of the assault last week and, because of a last-minute request by Flake, Republicans postponed Senate votes to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation more time to investigate Ford's claim. The FBI wrapped up its investigation late Wednesday, prompting Democrats to complain that the bureau hadn't interviewed enough people with relevant information, such as Ford's friends she'd previously told about the assault.
"I think I've made my case as best I could," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who teamed up with Flake to make the FBI probe happen. "The materials are what they are, and it is now left to senators to reach their conclusions. I do not think we've done as thorough and fulsome a job of assessing the facts and the allegations as we should have."
I do not think we've done as thorough and fulsome a job of assessing the facts and the allegations as we should have.Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.)
Because of the terms of a previous agreement between the Obama White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee, only senators and a limited number of staffers were allowed to see the FBI's report. They weren't allowed to disclose any of its contents.
Almost all Republicans argued that the FBI report provided "no corroboration" of Ford's claims, but at least one Democratic senator, Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), disputed that.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said he wished everyone could read the report. "There are things in here that really make me angry."
Paige Lavender contributed to this report.