Brett Kavanaugh vote: the two scenarios that could make or break Trump's legacy

Rozina Sabur
Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation vote will be a pivotal moment for both Republicans and Democrats - AFP

The US Senate is preparing for a crucial initial vote on Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court on Friday, as one of the most significant moments in US politics this year comes to a head. 

After a tough confirmation process involving multiple allegations of sexual assault,  a showdown roll call over Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation could come as early as Saturday.

A preliminary vote was delayed earlier to allow the first woman to accuse him of sexual misconduct, Christine Blasey Ford, to give her account to the Senate.

Millions of Americans tuned in to watch the testimonies of Mr Kavanaugh and Professor Ford. It was a moment, as Mr Trump put it, that was a "very important day in the history of our country".

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Republicans and Democrats are acutely aware that the upcoming vote on Mr Kavanaugh could shape America for decades to come.

The nine-member US Supreme Court will likely preside over cases that touch on issues ranging from abortion, gun rights, immigration, labour rights to campaign financing - and Mr Kavanaugh may be a key swing vote. 

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh gives his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee Credit: AFP

What happens if they vote to confirm Kavanaugh? 

If Mr Kavanaugh is confirmed by the Senate, the US Supreme Court will likely have its most conservative bench in several decades.

Given Mr Kavanaugh's testimony, during which he accused Democrats of an "orchestrated political hit",  there are also questions over whether he would have to recuse himself from a vast number of cases that appear before the court.

A yes vote could also spark a backlash among female voters, who may punish Republican candidates standing in November's midterm elections.

Prof Ford's testimony was closely followed by Americans watching at home Credit: Reuters

A number of women's rights activists have been lobbying their senators to vote down Mr Kavanaugh's nomination in the days since the sexual assault allegations came to light. 

What is more, a yes vote for Mr Kavanaugh may not spell the end of his troubles.

If Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, which pollsters deem likely, they could call for investigations into Mr Kavanaugh's past conduct.

Democratic operatives are even reportedly pondering the possibility of impeaching Mr Kavanaugh - although that would be extremely unlikely to succeed.

Impeaching a judge follows the same process as impeaching a president, requiring the House of Representative to vote on the motion then move to the Senate for a trial.

However two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favour of removing an official from office. 

What happens if they vote no?

If the nomination does not pass the Senate, the first question for Mr Trump is whether to pick another nominee or give Mr Kavanaugh a second shot.

Senator Lindsey Graham, an ally of the president, has suggested Mr Trump should renominate the judge if his nomination fails the first time around.

Mr Graham argued that this would make the Supreme Court nomination a key issue on the ballot in November's elections - and create a surge in conservative voters heading to the polls.

Many Republican voters feel that the claims against Mr Kavanaugh are Democratic smear tactics and they will mobilise their votes in November.

During his election campaign Mr Trump pledged to pick justices who oppose Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme court decision that legalised abortion in the US, a key issue among his base.

However the political makeup of the next Congress will have a huge impact on who Mr Trump puts forward for America's highest court.

The president will have to pick another nominee which has the support of his base but one that can get the bipartisan support needed to be confirmed by the Senate.

Republicans have been determined to rush through Mr Kavanaugh's nomination before the November elections because passing their preferred candidate will be a far greater task if they lose their majority.

The US Supreme Court is currently sitting without a ninth justice Credit: AFP

A 'no' vote will have implications for the rulings the Supreme Court makes in the near future too - it has been sitting since October 1 with just eight judges, four Republican appointees and four Democrat. 

The biggest fallout from Mr Kavanaugh's nomination being voted down is the political fallout - and the start of the blame game.

It would be a massive failure for the president to fail to secure his nominee while enjoying a Republican-controlled Congress. Who would be held responsible for the blunder? 

Mr Trump is reportedly furious with Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, for allowing Mr Kavanaugh's confirmation process to drag out. 

However whether Mr Trump's supporters will blame the president's party or the Democrats remains to be seen - either way it will add pressure on him to produce results ahead of his re-election battle in 2020.