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What's next in Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to be Supreme Court justice?

Woman accuses Brett Kavanaugh of assault

Having endured hours of questioning by senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month, Judge Brett Kavanaugh seemed to be well on his way to confirmation to the Supreme Court. But that was before late last week, when a new and unsavory allegation emerged against Kavanaugh, a conservative who is reputed to be a brilliant jurist, a devout Catholic, and a kind man who has a great love of basketball and baseball.

On Sunday, Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford came forward in an interview with the Washington Post, detailing her allegation that the future judge assaulted her at a party when they were both in high school in the 1980s. Ford's identity had been anonymous before, when she outlined the alleged misconduct in a letter to Democrats that has yet to be released. Ford's decision to go public, done out of "civic responsibility," she said, threw a curveball in Kavanaugh's confirmation process. 

When is Kavanaugh supposed have a committee vote? What about the full Senate?

Kavanaugh's next hurdle, after the confirmation hearings, was to be his vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, originally slated for last week, but postponed until Thursday, Sept. 20, because anyone in the Senate has the right to ask and receive a delay of a week on a nomination vote.

However, the sexual misconduct allegation has resulted in another delay. The Judiciary Committee now plans to hold a hearing Monday that would allow both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify about what Ford says transpired around 35 years ago. If the hearing takes place, the vote may take place the following day, Tuesday. 

Kavanaugh has told the committee he'll testify, and he has reportedly been preparing for questioning by senators, undergoing two-hour-long murder boards with White House staff including White House counsel Don McGahn, according to the Washington Post. 

But given that Ford and Democrats are calling for an FBI investigation into the allegations before Ford testifies, the timing of the hearing, and therefore, the committee vote, may be in flux. 

Republicans would like to see Kavanaugh get a floor vote and confirmation before October, when the Supreme Court's session begins.

Can he be voted down in committee?

It's possible. There are 21 senators on the committee, and 11 of them are Republicans. Grassley would like to see Kavanaugh advance with majority approval. The accusation, however, has raised the concerns of Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona who sits on the committee and is retiring this year, and Bob Corker, another Republican on the committee. Both say the committee should hear from the accuser. 

Even if Kavanaugh loses the vote, he'd still advance to the full Senate floor for a vote. He would just not have the "recommended" stamp of approval from the committee, advancing instead as "unapproved."

How many votes can Republicans lose in the full Senate floor vote? 

The Senate currently has 51 Republicans and 49 members who caucus with Democrats.

Only a simple majority of senators is needed to confirm him. In the event of a tie, Vice President Mike Pence can vote to break the impasse. 

Could Kavanaugh withdraw?

Kavanaugh technically could withdraw his nomination at any point. But the White House is standing by his initial denial, and at this point there is no indication that he will. 

White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said late Sunday night the White House is standing by Kavanaugh's initial denial. "On Friday, Judge Kavanaugh 'categorically and unequivocally' denied this allegation. This has not changed," she said. "Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement."

On Monday, Kavanaugh said in a follow-up statement that he would be willing to testify before the Senate "in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity."