Senate votes to confirm Kavanaugh to Supreme Court
(CNN) — The Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court Saturday afternoon, likely cementing a conservative majority on the court for a generation and bringing to an end months of bitter partisan feuding marked by shocking allegations of sexual assault and vehement and angry denials from the nominee.
The final vote was 50-48 and interrupted several times by protesters as senators sat silent at their desks for the formal roll call vote.
“I do not consent, where’s my representation,” one yelled.
The confirmation marks a major victory for President Donald Trump, who will soon be able to take credit for appointing two conservative justices to the Supreme Court during his relatively brief time in office.
The bitter duel between Republicans and Democrats over Kavanaugh is now likely to be prolonged as a motivating issue in the midterm elections in four weeks and will trigger recriminations and political reverberations that endure for years to come.
In the end, Republicans were able to use their monopoly on political power on Capitol Hill and the White House to muscle through the confirmation, which was nearly derailed by Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that the judge assaulted her when they were teenagers in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh will replace retired associate justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, who has been the swing vote in some of the most far reaching decisions on issues like LGBT rights, abortion, affirmative action and other issues in recent years.
His arrival on the bench offers the prospect of decades of conservative jurisprudence. It ensures that Trump’s influence, and that of a Republican stranglehold on power in Washington since the 2016 election, will endure long after current GOP leaders have left the scene.
“He will be a great Justice of the Supreme Court,” Trump said, before leaving the White House for a rally in Topeka, Kansas, that is now likely to turn into a raucous victory lap.
Democrats furiously accused the GOP of short-circuiting efforts to examine the allegations and of rushing the nomination through, and of ignoring the changed political dynamics surrounding complains of misconduct against powerful men ushered in by the #MeToo movement.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the nomination “one of the saddest moments in the history of the Senate,” and said, “this chapter will be a flashing red warning light of what to avoid.”
Republicans “conducted one of the least transparent, least fair, most biased processes in Senate history, slanting the table from the very beginning to produce their desired result,” he added.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who helped push through Kavanaugh’s nomination despite moments where it looked like it could fail, effusively praised Kavanaugh.
“The President nominated a jurist who has been described by legal peers of all political stripes as a superstar,” McConnell said, later adding that “Judge Brett Kavanaugh is among the very best our nation has to offer.”
Shortly before the vote, Trump said Kavanaugh “will be a great justice of the Supreme Court.”
“He’s just an extraordinary person… and I think he’s going to make us all very proud,” Trump added.
In a sign of the tense mood at the Capitol, Republican Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas was interrupted twice by yelling from protesters in the Senate gallery, which is open to visitors. Earlier in the day, Cornyn told a group of reporters that this has “not been the Senate’s finest hour,” and said that “a better path forward” is needed.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley offered up some words of praise for protesters ahead of the vote. The Iowa Republican told reporters that his message to protesters would be, “thank god that you’re willing to exercise your First Amendment rights of association and free speech. Keep it up, because it’s going to make America stronger.”
Ford allegations and partisan fighting
The path to Kavanaugh’s confirmation cleared on Friday when two wavering Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona said they would vote for Kavanaugh after concluding that Ford’s allegations, voiced by her in an emotional hearing last week, could not be corroborated.
Their move meant that McConnell could forge the narrowest of majorities to clear Kavanaugh, despite the fact that another Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska opposed him.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat facing a tough re-election fight in West Virginia, a state where the President rolled to victory in 2016, also supported Kavanaugh.
It was not clear that Kavanaugh would have the votes for confirmation until Collins said in a Senate floor speech that she would support his nomination.
In outlining her argument, Collins argued that while she believes that Ford, who testified last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s, “is a survivor of a sexual assault,” she does not believe that the allegation was corroborated.
“I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court,” Collins said. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.
Murkowski opposes but withdraws vote
The lone Republican to oppose the nomination was Murkowski, who told reporters that while she believes Kavanaugh is “a good man,” she also felt the confirmation process had become about something “bigger than a nominee.”
In a floor speech later on Friday, Murkowski expressed sympathy for both Ford and Kavanaugh. She said, however, that she sets a high bar for nominees to win confirmation and talked about the importance of selecting judges who will act at all times in a manner that promotes “public confidence” in the judiciary.
“In my conscience … I could not conclude that he is the right person for the court at this time,” the senator said.
But Murkowski ultimately withdrew herself from the final tally as a gesture of goodwill toward her Republican colleague, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who supports Kavanaugh, but will be in Montana to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. The move did not impact the overall outcome of the vote, but it allowed for the margin to be the same as it would have been if Daines had been there to participate and prevented a situation where Daines would have to fly back Saturday to cast a vote to ensure the result.
Daines “is walking his daughter down the aisle this afternoon. If he were present and voting, he would have voted aye,” Murkowski said during the roll call vote. “I have voted no. The pair will not change the outcome of the vote. I therefore withdraw my vote.”
Murkowski announced Friday that she would be pairing her vote with Daines as a professional courtesy and a gesture of goodwill.
This story is breaking and will be updated.