Senate installs Kavanaugh on Supreme Court

The Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on Saturday, giving President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE a significant win a month before a crucial midterm election.

Senators voted 50-48 to confirm Kavanaugh, ending a deeply bitter and rancorous fight that raged for months after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced in late June that he would retire and deprive the court of its perennial swing vote.

In a rare move, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiImpeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP Hillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Senators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban MORE (Alaska) was the only Republican senator to oppose Kavanaugh on Saturday. But she formally voted “present” to offset the absence of GOP Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesPerry replacement moves closer to confirmation despite questions on Ukraine Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks MORE (Mont.), who left Washington, D.C., on Friday to fly to Montana for his daughter’s wedding.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPolitical purity tests are for losers Former coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (D-W.Va.), 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.

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"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," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds McConnell urges Trump to voice support for Hong Kong protesters Key GOP senator: 'We need a breakthrough' on spending talks MORE (R-Ky.).

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.

Kavanaugh’s nomination spiraled into a partisan brawl almost immediately after Trump announced his name on July 9, but in the closing days of the nomination fight the Senate descended into some of its most intense and partisan brawling in recent memory.

Hundreds of protesters 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 FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (Ariz.), who voted for Kavanaugh, in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building last week.

The fight was marked by a national conversation on sexual assault and new questions about the “Me Too” movement after several women came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct stemming from his days in high school and college in the 1980s, throwing his nomination into chaos.

Senators began reviewing the FBI’s report on its investigation on Thursday. The report was not released publicly and both sides immediately drew competing conclusions, deepening the partisan atmosphere over the allegations.

Republicans argued the report found no corroboration of allegations from Christine Blasey Ford or Deborah Ramirez.

Ford, a professor from California, says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party in 1982. Ramirez says he exposed himself to her during their freshman year at Yale University. Kavanaugh has denied wrongdoing.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Progressive group to spend as much as M to turn out young voters Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (R-Maine) gave Kavanaugh his crucial 50th vote on Friday during a widely watched speech on the Senate floor. She said while she believed Ford, blocking Kavanaugh's nomination over uncorroborated allegations would be deeply damaging to the Senate confirmation process.

“Certain fundamental legal principles about due process, the presumption of innocence and fairness do bear on my thinking and I cannot abandon them," she said.

Some Republicans warned that letting those allegations sink Kavanaugh would push the Senate toward “McCarthyism.” At one point, Republicans compared themselves to the fictional character Atticus Finch from "To Kill a Mockingbird."

“Some commentators have called this our Atticus Finch moment, recalling the famous novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee. We all remember that Atticus Finch was a lawyer that did not believe that a mere accusation was synonymous with guilt," GOP Sen. John CornynJohn CornynImpeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial MORE (Texas), the Senate majority whip, said in a floor speech this week. 

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee released an executive summary of the FBI’s report, including the conclusion that it “confirms what the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded after its investigation: there is no corroboration of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez.”

But Democrats and lawyers for Ford accused Republicans of misleading about what the FBI report found and that the leak by Republicans constituted a violation of the Senate rules.

An aide to a Democratic senator on the Judiciary Committee said the GOP summary was “flat-out wrong.”

“We are prevented by Senate rules from saying how and why, and we choose to respect Senate rules,” the aide added. “Democrats’ comments have been based on public reporting and statements from Dr. Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez’s attorneys, honoring the confidentiality of the background investigations process.”

Lawyers for Ford said in a statement that “senators claiming to want a dignified debate should not repeat lies constructed by the Judiciary Committee that were cynically designed to win support for Judge Kavanaugh.”

And Ramirez added in a statement on Saturday that the Senate’s handling of her allegations was an example of how “victims are isolated and silenced.”

Democrats argued that the FBI’s investigation was limited in a move by the White House and Republicans to protect Kavanaugh, and warned that confirming him would send a message to sexual assault victims.

“It is incumbent on all of us in this body, regardless of where you stand on Brett Kavanaugh, it’s incumbent on all of us to not deepen those scars by diminishing the pain of these women as political theater. This is not political theater and it should not be viewed through a partisan lens,” Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenProgressive group to spend as much as M to turn out young voters On The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows MORE (D-N.H.) said Saturday.

The sexual misconduct allegations were only the latest point of contention in Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Democrats and their progressive allies had raised the alarm over a myriad of issues, including a weeks-long fight over documents from Kavanaugh’s work as a staff secretary in the George W. Bush White House. They worry that Kavanaugh has an expansive view of executive authority and will provide conservatives a fifth vote on hot-button issues, including abortion and guns.

And they focused part of their closing argument on Kavanaugh’s credibility and if he had the right “temperament” for a Supreme Court justice.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Democrats unveil priorities for federal privacy bill Overnight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary MORE (D-N.Y.) 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 51-49 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 kept 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.”