For the procedural vote, Flake, Collins, and Manchin voted yes, while Murkowski voted no Friday morning. John Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, who has been aggressively lobbying undecided senators to vote for Kavanaugh, also came over and touched Murkowski on the shoulder as they spoke. Voting for an end to the endless debate that defines the Senate is not the same thing as voting for Kavanaugh's final confirmation.
Confirming Mr Kavanaugh to the lifetime post would hand Mr Trump a clear victory and tip the balance on the court to a 5-4 majority in favour of conservatives in possible legal battles over contentious issues such as abortion rights, immigration, and Mr Trump's attempt to ban transgender people from the United States military.
Flake and Collins are coming under huge pressure to vote against the confirmation amid fervid activism on the Hill where Democrats and liberals are undertaking shoe-leather campaigning round the clock to stop it.
"This is one vote that we probably won't know until the votes are actually cast", Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations. Murphy said his partisan response to Ford's allegations and mischaracterization of the contents of his own high school yearbook should disqualify him from a seat on the Supreme Court.
Most Democrats opposed Trump's nomination of Kavanaugh from the outset.
Because of the terms of a previous agreement between the Obama White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee, only senators and a limited number of staffers were allowed to see the FBI's report.
That this long, bitter saga ended on such a close vote with any suspense at all is a testament to the anti-Kavanaugh sentiment that kept all but one of the Democrats up for reelection this year in opposition to him-and to the ruthlessness of Republicans in rushing to a vote the minute a cursory FBI investigation of allegations against Kavanaugh was completed.
Republican Senate Judiciary Chair Sen.
The U.S. Supreme Court is seen at near sunset in Washington Thursday Oct. 4 2018. ASSOCIATED PRESS
The FBI sent Congress documents detailing additional interviews about Kavanaugh that the agency conducted at the request of some Republican and Democratic senators.
Friday's vote - called "cloture" - was a test of support for the embattled nominee who has faced sexual assault allegations from several women.
Under pressure from wavering Republicans, GOP leaders agreed to an extraordinary Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week that mesmerized the nation as Ford nervously recounted her story and said she was "100 percent" certain that Kavanaugh was her attacker.
The American Bar Association said Friday it's re-examining its "well qualified" rating of Kavanaugh because of "new information of a material nature regarding temperament" during the hearing.
Some protesters, many dressed in black, crowded into the Hart Senate Office Building after rallying in front of the Supreme Court on a sunny, warm autumn day. He might be called on to rule on issues stemming from the special counsel investigation of Trump.
Lisa Murkowski, the lone Republican who voted against advancing Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, has carved out a path as a fiercely independent senator known for bucking her party.
Comedian Amy Schumer and model Emily Ratajkowski were among 302 people held for demonstrating against the nominee.
Two other undecided Republicans, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of ME, both considered moderate, went with the party, giving it a 51-49 victory to advance the matter to a final vote on Saturday.
Trump had previously refused to reopen the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe. The bureau specifically probed the accusations of Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when he was a student at Georgetown Prep, and Deborah Ramirez, who claims he exposed himself to her while they were both students at Yale. Kavanaugh deserves a presumption of innocence, Collins said, and allegations by Christine Blasey Ford and other women did not reach a threshold of certainty. Two other women emerged and accused him of other incidents of sexual misconduct.