In a 50-48 vote mostly along party lines on Saturday, the U.S. Senate confirmed accused sexual predator and right-wing operative Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in a lifetime appointment.
The polemical vote capped a weeks-long contentious nomination process in which credible allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted multiple women while in high school and college were ignored by Republican senators. Kavanaugh, 53, who attacked Democratic senators and revealed an explosive partisan temperament during Senate hearings, also appears to have repeatedly lied throughout the process.
As Vice President Mike Pence initiated the voting process, protests erupted throughout the Senate gallery. Pence called for order and the voting proceeded. But it was frequently interrupted by additional protests, with some shouting, “Shame on you!” And others: “Where is my representation?”
The vote followed dozens of hours of speeches by Democrats and Republicans on the Senate floor ending on Saturday afternoon. Kavanaugh’s nomination, however, was sealed on Friday with announcements of support by key senators like Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who previously had been considered holdouts.
As expected, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, also voted yes. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, from Alaska, voted “present.” Sen. Steve Daines of Montana was attending his daughter’s wedding at the time of the vote.
Collins had made it clear she would vote to confirm Kavanaugh in a lengthy speech on Friday, which demonstrated that prior claims that she had been undecided likely were disingenuous. Instead of questioning Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court and erring on the side of caution, Collins praised his judicial record and expressed her concern that failing to confirm him would somehow damage the confirmation process.
The senator said she had found the testimony of Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford to be “sincere, painful, and compelling,” but she couldn’t be sure Kavanaugh was the one who attacked Ford at a party in the 1980s, when the two were in high school.
Ahead of Saturday’s vote, President Donald Trump told reporters he “thought Susan [Collins] was incredible yesterday.”
The argument that Ford—who testified under oath that she is “100 percent” certain Kavanaugh was her attacker—was somehow “confused” was a tactic used throughout the nomination process by Republicans intent on steamrolling Kavanaugh onto the court. Republicans implemented the same strategy to undermine allegations by a second Kavanaugh accuser, Deborah Ramirez, who said the judge exposed himself to her at a college dorm party.
In a statement Saturday, Ramirez said: “Thirty-five years ago, the other students in the room chose to laugh and look the other way as sexual violence was perpetrated on me by Brett Kavanaugh. As I watch many of the Senators speak and vote on the floor of the Senate I feel like I’m right back at Yale where half the room is laughing and looking the other way. Only this time, instead of drunk college kids, it is US Senators who are deliberately ignoring his behavior.
She added: “This is how victims are isolated and silenced.”
Flake’s role in the drama included calling for an investigation into the allegations by the FBI, which later proved to be farcical. In addition to lasting less than a week, FBI investigators who were limited in their mandate by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee and by the White House, didn’t interview Kavanaugh or Ford, and they ignored a lengthy list of corroborating witnesses who have come forward publicly in recent days.
Trump praised the bureau’s limited background check of Kavanaugh.
On Friday, Ford’s friend and corroborating witness Keith Koegler issued a statement expressing grave concern that senators had ignored Ford’s testimony. “I believe, with every fiber of my being, that Christine Blasey Ford has testified truthfully about her assault by Brett Kavanaugh,” Koegler stated. “I have the benefit of knowing Christine, but if you saw her testimony and you didn’t find her credible, you know nothing about sexual assault.”
Koegler was one of many witnesses who were not interviewed by the FBI.
Also on Friday, the American Bar Association announced it would reopen its evaluation of Kavanaugh due to the judge’s temperament during his Sept. 27 hearing before the Judiciary Committee.
Kavanaugh’s nomination has now become a rallying cry—for both Democrats and Republicans—for get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of the upcoming Nov. 6 midterm elections. Threats of impeaching Kavanaugh should the Democrats win back control of both the House and Senate in November appear to be a long shot, as it would require a two-thirds vote for approval in the Senate, an unlikely scenario.
Nevertheless, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., warned of the impeachment threat in an effort to rally Republican voters. “This is war,” he tweeted.
Democrats are expected to open congressional investigations into the multiple allegations against Kavanaugh, along with his truthfulness at Senate hearings, should they take control of the House in November.
But for Republicans, losing control of Congress is a tolerable price to pay for putting a deeply conservative and partisan justice on the Supreme Court for at least a generation.
Kavanaugh is expected to be sworn in on Saturday evening by Chief Justice John Roberts, NBC News reported.