U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 4, 2018.
U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 4, 2018.

The U.S. Senate is expected to confirm Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court Saturday, following weeks of controversy stemming from sexual assault accusations and attacks on his character and temperament.

Kavanaugh's chances of serving on the nation's highest court were bolstered Friday when two key senators, Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Joe Manchin, said they would vote for his confirmation.  

In a speech to the Senate, Collins cited the lack of evidence for the claims made against Kavanaugh and she added her decision should not be understood as a denial of the importance of sexual assault claims.

"Every person man or woman who makes a charge of sexual assault deserves to be heard and treated with respect," she said.

Manchin said in a tweet minutes later he would vote "yes" based on the information made available to him, including a recently completed FBI report.

Lisa Murkowski will likely be the sole Republican senator to vote against Kavanaugh's confirmation. Murkowski said Friday she opposes Kavanaugh but will ask to be recorded as "present" during the vote. The move will allow the absence of Republican Senator Steve Daines, who will be at his daughter's wedding in Montana, to not affect the outcome of the vote.

WATCH: Senate Close to Confirming Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh


Lawyers' review

The American Bar Association delivered a statement via email Friday afternoon to Senator Charles Grassley, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, the committee's top Democrat.

The ABA said in the letter it had "new information of a material nature regarding the temperament" of Judge Kavanaugh that was gathered during his September 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The letter said the new information prompted a "reopening" of the bar association's evaluation of Kavanaugh, conducted by its Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

The letter said the committee does not expect a re-vote prior to the Senate's final vote on Saturday. It said its original rating of Judge Kavanaugh would stand.

Two of the three women Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, raised concerns Friday about partisanship on the court. Without mentioning President Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh, or Kavanaugh himself, at an event at Princeton University, Kagan said, "This is really a divided time." Kagan added, "it's an incredibly important thing for the court to guard [its] reputation of being fair, of being impartial ... and of not being simply an extension of the terribly polarized political process and environment that we live in."  

Sotomayor stressed the importance of avoiding partisanship on the high court, citing fellow justice Clarence Thomas, whom she frequently disagrees with, as an example. "If you're ill, if you've had someone die in your family, his [are] the first flowers that arrive," she said. "Know that inside of him there is a goodness that I can admire, even if I might disagree with him on everything else."

Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct by a woman who says he assaulted her at a home in suburban Washington when they were teenagers in the 1980s. He denies the accusation made by Professor Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee more than a week ago.

Professor Christine Blasey Ford and U.S. Supreme C
FILE - Professor Christine Blasey Ford and U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (R), testify in this combination photo during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation, Sept. 27, 2018.

The U.S. Senate narrowly voted Friday to limit debate on Kavanaugh's nomination, advancing it to Saturday's final confirmation vote.

Friday's procedural vote, an institutional matter unrelated to how the lawmakers will eventually decide, allowed for up to 30 hours of Senate debate ahead of a final vote. The 51 to 49 decision was largely along party lines, with Manchin the only Democrat to vote in favor of advancing the nomination and Lisa Murkowski being the sole Republican to vote "no."

If the Senate is tied 50-50, Vice President Mike Pence could cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm him.

Senators have been confronted by protesters who oppose the Kavanaugh nomination and police at the U.S. Capitol have arrested hundreds of demonstrators. 

Demonstrators protest against Supreme Court nomine
Demonstrators protest against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as they march to the U.S. Supreme Court, Oct. 4, 2018, in Washington.

President Trump praised the Republican-led Senate Friday, tweeting he was “Very proud” it managed to advance the nomination.


Senators were duty-bound not to divulge details of the report, which was made available behind closed doors in a secure room of the Capitol; however, numerous Republicans emerged to tell reporters they saw nothing implicating Kavanaugh in sexual misconduct.
 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the FBI was unable to locate “any third parties who could attest to any of these allegations.” He told fellow lawmakers on the Senate floor Friday, “It would be a travesty...if the Senate did not confirm the most qualified nomination in our nation’s history.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joi
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined at left by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., speaks to reporters about the political battle for confirmation of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday on the Senate floor, “I do not see how it’s possible for my colleagues to say with perfect confidence that Judge Kavanaugh has the temperament, independence and credibility to serve on the United States Supreme Court.”

Dianne Feinstein, the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, told colleagues Friday she had attended nine Supreme Court nomination hearings during more than 25 years in the Senate, but never one like Kavanaugh's.  

“Never before have we had a Supreme Court nominee where over 90 percent of his record has been hidden from the public and the Senate. Never before have we had a nominee display such flagrant partisanship and open hostility at a hearing. And never before have we had a nominee facing allegations of sexual assault.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Dia
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks to the media, accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about the FBI report on sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaug

Democrats argued the FBI report had been hampered by limitations placed on investigators by the White House in conjunction with Judiciary Committee Republicans. News reports say neither Ford nor Kavanaugh was interviewed, and several people who claimed to have known the nominee as a student said they were not able to secure an FBI interview.
 
White House spokesman Raj Shah said that after the "most comprehensive review of a Supreme Court nominee in history," the White House is "fully confident" Kavanaugh will be confirmed.
 
If confirmed, Kavanaugh would replace retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. The nine-member court is currently operating with eight justices.

A Kavanaugh confirmation would tip the balance on the Supreme Court to a 5 to 4 conservative majority.