WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump demanded a Senate vote on confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and praised his performance minutes after a hearing on sexual assault allegations against him.
"His testimony was powerful, honest and riveting," Mr Trump said on Twitter on Thursday. "Democrats' search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct and resist. The Senate must vote!"
Mr Trump thought Judge Kavanaugh's angry and emotional opening statement to the committee was strong, three people familiar with the President's thinking said. Within the White House, the consensus is that the nominee showed passion and honesty.
Dr Christine Blasey Ford, 51, a California research psychologist, told the Senate on Thursday that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were both in high school. She said she is "100 per cent" certain Judge Kavanaugh was her attacker.
Judge Kavanaugh, 53, tearfully and unequivocally denied sexually assaulting Dr Ford. He accused Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee of dragging out his confirmation and turning the process into "a national disgrace".
Judge Kavanaugh's appointment may now hinge on how his testimony and that of his accuser are assessed by a handful of Republican senators who so far have avoided taking a position on his confirmation, including Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. Each said they wanted to watch the hearing before making up their minds.
The three Republicans met privately with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin shortly after the hearing ended. Mr Manchin sometimes votes with Republicans and is up for re-election in a state that Mr Trump won by more than 40 points in 2016.
SENATE MUST VOTE
Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest and riveting. Democrats' search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct and resist. The Senate must vote!
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, on Twitter.
"We're still talking," Mr Manchin said as he left the meeting. "There's no decisions made on anything, I can assure you of that."
The Judiciary Committee, which has 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, was scheduled to vote on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination yesterday. If approved, it would go to the full Senate, where Republicans hold a slim 51-49 edge and cannot afford more than one defection to ensure confirmation without Democratic support.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Mr Trump would get his wish. "We're going to vote in the morning and we're going to move forward," he told journalists.
The outcome and how the American public perceives it could redefine the "Me Too" era and reverberate for both parties in the Nov 6 elections, which will decide control of Congress.
A Pew Research Centre survey released on Wednesday showed that Supreme Court appointments now rank essentially equal to healthcare and the economy as a top issue.
While the court long has been a motivator for the Republican Party base, the Pew survey found that 81 per cent of voters who favour Democratic candidates said court appointments were important, compared with 72 per cent of those who said they support Republicans.
Adding to that is a gender gap in voter preferences. Democratic candidates have a 23-point edge over Republican candidates among women voters - 58 per cent to 35 per cent - while men are roughly evenly divided.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE