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Senate to vote on US judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination after sex assault allegations

Protesters rally against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the Senate Judiciary Committee debates his confirmation at the Supreme Court in Washington. Picture by J Scott Applewhite/AP
Lisa Mascaro, Alan Fram and Catherine Lucey, Associated Press

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted along party lines to advance Brett Kavanaugh's US Supreme Court nomination to the Senate floor.

The 11-10 vote came just one day after Republicans heard evidence from Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Mr Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers.

Mr Kavanaugh denied the accusation.

At the last minute, senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, said he could not promise to vote for Mr Kavanaugh on the Senate floor and called for a delay of up to a week for a further investigation.

Republicans voted to move ahead with Mr Kavanaugh's nomination.

Senate Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley noted the timing on the Senate vote was up to majority leader Mitch McConnell.

It is unclear if Republican leaders – or President Donald Trump – will support Mr Flake's call for the investigation or instead press forward with a full Senate vote on Mr Kavanaugh's nomination.

Mr Flake, a key moderate Republican, was at the centre of the drama and uncertainty.

On Friday morning, he announced that he would support Mr Kavanaugh's nomination. Shortly after, he was confronted in a lift by two women who, through tears, implored him to change his mind.

After huddling privately with his colleagues, Mr Flake announced that he would vote to advance Mr Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate only if the FBI were to investigate the allegations against the judge.

Democrats have been calling for such an investigation, though Republicans and the White House have insisted it is unnecessary.

Mr Trump said he would leave it to the Senate to determine when it will vote on his Supreme Court nominee. But Mr Trump expressed optimism, saying: "I'm sure it will all be very good."

HE told reporters during a meeting with the president of Chile that undecided Republican senators "have to do what they think is right" and "be comfortable with themselves" on the vote.

But he said he had not thought at all about a replacement, "Not even a little bit".

Mr Trump also said he found Ms Ford to be "a very credible witness".

He told reporters at the White House that he thought Ms Ford's evidence "was very compelling" and that "she looks like a very fine woman, very fine woman".

Mr Trump described Mr Kavanaugh's adamant denial as "really something that I hadn't seen before. It was incredible".

The president called it "an incredible moment I think in the history of our country".

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