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NASHVILLE — U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen said Friday morning he would vote to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh if he were now a senator.

The announcement came as the GOP-led Senate prepared to hold a cloture vote on the controversial judge's nomination. Kavenaugh's nomination passed that vote, and a confirmation vote over the weekend is expected.

With pressure mounting for days on the former governor to declare how he would vote on Kavanaugh, a conservative accused by three women of sexual misconduct while he was in high school and college, Bredesen said in a release that he had been prepared earlier to announce his support for Kavanaugh.

Bredesen's full statement

"Presidents have the right to appoint justices who share their values--elections have consequences. I believe a Senator's responsibility to 'advise and consent' is not a license to indulge in partisanship, but should focus on the qualifications of the nominee, their ethics and their temperament.

I believed that Judge Kavanaugh initially met this test, and I was prepared to say 'yes' to his nomination prior to Dr. Ford's coming forward. While the subsequent events make it a much closer call, and I am missing key pieces of information that a sitting Senator has, I'm still a 'yes.'

Dr. Ford is a heroine, and has brought forcefully into the national conversation the many barriers women face in reporting and dealing with sexual harassment and assault. I was disgusted by the treatment she received at the hands of the Senate and am determined to help bring about a fairer and far more respectful treatment of these issues."

He said that, while concerned about the later allegations and emphasizing he is missing "key pieces of information that a sitting Senator has," he is "still a yes."

He also said presidents "have the right to appoint justices that best meet their values — elections have consequences."

And Bredesen said senators' responsibility to "advise and consent" is "not a license to indulge in partisanship."

Kavanaugh's confirmation battle has become a major issue in the tight Senate race  between Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn.

Bredesen has pitched himself to voters as a pragmatic moderate who won't be dictated to by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y

Blackburn, a staunch conservative congresswoman, GOP loyalist and strong supporter of President Donald Trump, charges Bredesen will become beholden to Schumer if he is elected.

And she's hammered him in recent weeks for his silence on Kavanaugh.

Bredesen, who is counting on support from GOP moderates and conservative-leaning independents in a normally Republican state, has experienced problems among some fellow Democrats over the Kavanaugh question.

During a Chattanooga forum on Monday while Blackburn appeared with Trump at a Johnson City, Tennessee rally, Bredesen faced boos from some when he said he was "still holding and reserving my opinion on Mr. Kavanaugh until the FBI finishes its investigation."

Before Dr. Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault at a party decades ago at a high school, there was political speculation here that Bredesen might announce he would vote to confirm the nominee.

But Bredesen, who as governor once appointed a Republican Tennessee Supreme Court justice, held off announcing any decision in the wake of the public accusations against Kavanaugh.

In his statement, he called Ford a "heroine."

Blackburn charged in a statement that Bredesen's "campaign is bought and paid for by Chuck Schumer and national Democrats, including Michael Bloomberg.

"He put off an answer on Judge Kavanaugh for 88 days, under Chuck Schumer's direction to stay neutral as long as you can. The contrast on these issues could not be more clear."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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