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As FBI examination ends, McConnell readies vote on Kavanaugh

The FBI background report investigation on Brett Kavanaugh is over. Mitch McConnell has already made clear the process that's poised to play out.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks from the chamber as Republicans pushed legislation toward Senate approval to defund Planned Parenthood and the ACA, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 3, 2015. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks from the chamber as Republicans pushed legislation toward Senate approval to defund Planned Parenthood and the ACA, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 3, 2015.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke at a religious-right gathering two weeks ago, and after acknowledging the controversies surrounding Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, he assured far-right activists that their side would prevail.

"Don't get rattled by all of this," the GOP leader told attendees to the Values Voter Summit. "We're going to plow right through it and do our job."

Now that the FBI's re-opened background check into Kavanaugh is complete, we're about to find out what "plow right through it" means in practice.

The FBI background report investigation on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was handed to the White House and passed on to the Senate overnight, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arranged a key vote on the process for Friday. [...]The supplemental background investigation report is expected to contain "302" forms of the FBI interviews, which summarize the contents of the interviews, aides and senators have said.

In terms of the FBI's findings, there are a few key elements to keep in mind. First, we've known from the outset that the bureau wouldn't draw any firm conclusions -- such as determining whose version of events is the correct one. Rather, the new report will provide senators with raw information about what witnesses said in interviews.

Second, if you're eager to read the findings, prepare to be disappointed. As things stand, the background check will not be made available to the public, and even senators themselves will only be able to read the materials in a secure facility on Capitol Hill.

That will have to unfold very quickly: today will be the only day available to senators to review the FBI's findings. It's unclear how many of the chamber's 100 members will want to read the materials, but they'll each have to move quite quickly.

And third, there's going to be a spirited debate about the scope of the FBI's background check and the degree to which it will be seen as incomplete.

As the Washington Post  put it, "The investigation was always unlikely to answer definitively whether Kavanaugh was guilty of sexual misconduct decades ago. But the probe's limited scope -- which was dictated by the White House, along with a Friday deadline -- is likely to exacerbate the partisan tensions surrounding Kavanaugh's nomination."

That's a very safe bet. The New Yorker's Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow published a new report overnight, "Frustrated potential witnesses who have been unable to speak with the F.B.I agents conducting the investigation into sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, have been resorting to sending statements, unsolicited, to the Bureau and to senators, in hopes that they would be seen before the inquiry concluded."

As for the congressional process, McConnell last night started the clock on a procedural vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, and that vote will be held tomorrow. That gives senators time today -- and only today -- to examine the FBI's new findings.

Tomorrow's cloture vote will be the final hurdle before a final confirmation vote. If Kavanaugh clears tomorrow's hurdle, the Senate will have 30 hours of debate -- which means the chamber could vote as early as Saturday on whether to give him a lifetime position on the nation's highest court.

Does the fact that McConnell is moving forward suggest he's confident he has the votes to confirm the Republican judge? As unsatisfying an answer as this is, we just don't know. Maybe McConnell thinks he has the votes; maybe he thinks he'll get the votes; or maybe he thinks Kavanaugh will never have the votes and McConnell is eager to end the process and move on.

Watch this space.