President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is all but certain to be appointed later, after two key senators said sexual misconduct claims against the judge would not prevent them from backing him.
If Mr Kavanaugh is approved in a final Senate vote – likely to happen from 8.30pm (UK time) on Saturday – Mr Trump will have achieved a victory in his drive to consolidate conservative dominance of the nation's highest court.
Republican senator Susan Collins, regarded as a swing voter, said she will support Mr Kavanaugh – a statement that has boosted the judge's chances of being confirmed.
The sole Democrat to vote yes in the earlier ballot, Joe Manchin, also vowed to back the judge in the next vote.
Mr Manchin, who was also seen as a swing voter, called Mr Kavanaugh a "qualified jurist".
Republican Jeff Flake, another senator who had not previously indicated how he would vote, has now said he will vote to confirm Mr Kavanaugh "unless something big changes".
Hours earlier, Mr Kavanaugh's nomination cleared an important hurdle – but only by a hair's breadth.
The Senate voted 51-49 to limit debate and to move on to the final vote.
If the vote had been defeated, his nomination process would have hit another delay in what has been a slowed down process after allegations of sexual assault were heard against the judge.
Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting “YES” to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2018
Mr Trump wants Mr Kavanaugh to help tip the court to the right.
After the vote, he tweeted: "Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting "YES" to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!"
The Republicans control the chamber 51-49.
To win, they needed every Republican to vote yes if all Democrats voted no.
In the end, one Republican – Lisa Murkowski – voted to stop the nomination, while one Democrat – Mr Manchin – voted to send it further.
The progress of nominee Mr Kavanaugh, 53, has been slowed down after he was accused of sexual assault by professor Christine Blasey Ford.
Dr Ford gave evidence in front of a Senate judiciary committee that Mr Kavanaugh, then aged 17, sexually assaulted her when she was aged 15 in Maryland in 1982.
Two other women have accused Mr Kavanaugh – who denies any wrongdoing – of sexual misconduct in separate incidents in the 1980s.
As the president sent out his tweet, protesters stormed the corridors of the Senate building to demonstrate outside the offices of senators, including Republicans Mr Flake and Mitch McConnell.
Sit-ins were held by protesters who believe the women's accounts over Mr Kavanaugh's.
They were told by police they would be arrested as they shouted chants, including "this is for all survivors".
Footage shows some being led away in handcuffs by police in an echo of Thursday's protests which saw comedian Amy Schumer and model Emily Ratajkowski be detained alongside other demonstrators.
They protested after Mr Trump was criticised for imitating Dr Ford, who could not provide precise information about every aspect of the day of the alleged assault, at a rally in Mississippi.
The vote comes after the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Republican Chuck Grassley, said the FBI had found "no hint of misconduct" in its investigation into Mr Kavanaugh.
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Democrats have complained that the FBI's reopening of its Kavanaugh background check has been far too limited, leaving out contact with crucial potential witnesses.
Several US media publications reported that witnesses who believe the FBI should interview them over the allegations feel like they have been silenced.