(Reuters) - President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court went before a Senate committee on Thursday, with dramatic testimony over almost nine hours from Kavanaugh and from a woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were high school students in Maryland in 1982.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard from Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, was expected to vote soon on his nomination, possibly as early as Friday.
If approved by the committee, the nomination would then go before the full Senate, where confirmation could hinge on a handful of key senators.
** Jeff Flake. A frequent Trump critic who will retire from the Senate in January, Flake was complimentary toward Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing earlier this month. On Thursday, Flake, who is a Judiciary Committee member and sat through the hearing, said little about his position on the nominee.
** Susan Collins. A moderate who sometimes breaks from party ranks, Collins earlier said she wanted both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify under oath to the committee and told reporters that if Kavanaugh had lied about allegations of sexual misconduct, "that would be disqualifying."
** Lisa Murkowski. An occasional party renegade, she has not said how she will vote. Murkowski met privately late on Thursday with Collins, Flake and Democrat Joe Manchin. Earlier in the day she told Reuters: "I find Dr. Ford's testimony to be credible."
** Heidi Heitkamp. Facing a re-election campaign in North Dakota, a heavily pro-Trump state, she had called for further investigation of Ford's allegations.
** Joe Manchin. Also up for re-election, in the pro-Trump state of West Virginia, he met with Republicans late Thursday.
** Joe Donnelly. Donnelly is up for re-election in the red-leaning state of Indiana. He has said the allegations against Kavanaugh "merit further review."
** Doug Jones. The first Democratic senator elected from Alabama in over 20 years, he must show he can be independent-minded to stay in office. The Kavanaugh vote could be a test.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Amanda Becker and Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Bill Trott and Leslie Adler)