The drama of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court finally ended on Saturday afternoon, when without any last-minute surprises, the US Senate voted Kavanaugh to become the 114th Justice to the US Supreme Court in a major victory for both the Republican party and President Trump.
Kavanaugh was confirmed as expected in a 50-48 vote, the narrowest margin for any justice since the 19th century.
In a rare move, Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican senator to oppose Kavanaugh on Saturday, but she formally voted “present” to offset the absence of GOP Sen. Steve Daines who left Washington, D.C., on Friday to fly to Montana for his daughter’s wedding. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who is up for reelection in a state Trump won by more than 40 points in 2016, was the only Democratic senator to support Kavanaugh’s nomination.
As The Hill reports, republicans used Manchin’s support to tout Kavanaugh’s nomination as “bipartisan,” but the razor-thin vote margin marks the closest successful Supreme Court vote since Stanley Matthews was confirmed in a 24-23 vote in 1881.
In the ends, it doesn’t matter how they got there: Kavanaugh’s confirmation will be a crowning victory for Trump and McConnell, fulfilling a top campaign promise for the president and a critical priority for the Kentucky Republican. Kavanaugh’s ascension to the high court will ensure a conservative majority for decades to come, an outcome that McConnell especially has focused on during his long tenure as the top Senate Republican.
“By confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, this brilliant jurist will be charged with upholding the rule of law and honoring American justice,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Friday, minutes before winning a crucial procedural vote that cleared the way for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. “We must seize the golden opportunity before us today to confirm a Supreme Court justice who will make us proud.”
“A vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh today is also a vote to send a clear message about what the Senate is. This is an institution where the evidence and the facts matter. … This is a chamber in which the politics of intimidation and personal destruction do not win the day,” McConnell added.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer called the fight over Kavanaugh a “low point” for the Senate. “When the history of the Senate is written, this chapter will be a flashing red warning light of what to avoid,” he said from the Senate floor.
But Democrats didn’t have the ability to block Kavanaugh’s nomination on their own. Republicans hold a 51-seat majority, which allowed them to lose one GOP senator before they needed help from Democrats.
Murkowski, explaining her decision in a Senate floor speech on Friday night, said she continued returning to the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which says that judges should act in a way at all times that upholds the “public confidence” and avoids “the appearance of impropriety.”
“After the hearing that we watched last week, last Thursday, it … was becoming clearer that appearance of impropriety has become unavoidable,” she said.
The Alaska senator noted that she agreed with several points made by Collins, including dismissing concerns that Kavanaugh would overturn Roe v. Wade, while stating that she believed he is a good man. “But, in my conscience, because that’s how I have to vote,” she said, “I could not conclude that he is the right person for the court at this time.”
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Since we’re already a week into the Supreme Court’s current term, it should come as no surprise that Republicans are wasting no time with the swearing-in. To wit, SCOTUS issued a press release minutes after Kavanaugh’s successful confirmation announcing that Kavanaugh would be sworn in Saturday, with Chief Justice Roberts and retired Justice Kennedy presiding.
President Trump extended his congratulations to Kavanaugh and said he would soon sign his Commission of Appointment.
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Hundreds of protestors were arrested as they flooded the Senate office buildings to directly confront Republican senators and key-swing votes this week. Several senators began traveling to votes and committee hearings with police escorts after two women confronted GOP Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), who voted for Kavanaugh, in the basement of the Senate Russell Office Building last week.
As the nomination vote began, chaos briefly broke out in the Senate chamber after protestors interrupted the nomination vote, screaming and yelling as they were removed from the gallery that overlooks the chamber. “The sergeant in arms will restore order in the gallery,” Vice President Pence, who was presiding over the vote, said as he banged the gavel several times to try to silence protestors. Protesters shouted “Shame on you!” and “I did not give consent!” as they were taken out of the gallery.
As CNN’s Steve Brusk reports, “Shouting at the top of their lungs, protesters yelling “I will not consent” are being forcibly removed. They continue to scream as they’re pulled into the hallway. At least 8 have been removed from the Gallery” while Fox News’ Chad Pergram notes, “a’ vocal and as disruptive a demonstration I have ever seen during a vote.”
Kavanaugh overcame allegations of sexual assault in the early 1980s – ranging from groping to “gang bang mastermind.” The claims were levied against Kavanaugh at the 11th hour, following several weeks of testimony to vet the highly accomplished Supreme Court nominee – President Trump’s second after Justice Neil Gorsuch.
With Kavanaugh’s ascension to the highest court in the land, liberals have raised concerns that a firmly conservative Supreme Court may roll back abortion rights, outlaw affirmative action, protect religious rights and limit federal regulatory power.
Kavanaugh’s work on a federal appeals court suggests he will align with his four fellow Republican appointees in ideologically divisive cases. Kavanaugh will succeed the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s swing vote for the last decade. –Bloomberg
“It is quite possible we will have not just a conservative court, but an aggressively conservative court — a court that would not merely refrain from protecting civil rights, but one that may be poised affirmatively to strike down progressive state and federal laws and regulations for decades to come,” said Walter Dellinger, Bill Clinton’s top Supreme Court attorney. That said, Kavanaugh says he considers the landmark abortion legislation of Roe v. Wade as “important precedent” and “settled law.”
Also of concern to the left is how a decidedly conservative Supreme Court would weigh in over a presidential subpoena in the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election. The Supreme Court has never said whether a president is required to obey a DOJ subpoena to testify in a criminal investigation.
The USSC may also weigh in on pending appeals to decide whether federal law outlaws employers from discriminating on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, as well as Trump’s efforts to roll back deportation protections for undocumented migrants.
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