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Senate installs Kavanaugh on Supreme Court

The Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on Saturday, giving President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East 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 MurkowskiEx-Florida lawmaker leaves Republican Party Murkowski not worried about a Palin challenge Flake on Kavanaugh confirmation: To see GOP 'spiking the ball in the end zone' doesn't seem right 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 DainesTrump administration could use military bases to export coal, gas McConnell: No one is going to beat Murkowski in Alaska Murkowski brushes off GOP backlash: 'I'm good with' Kavanaugh vote MORE (Mont.), who left Washington, D.C., on Friday to fly to Montana for his daughter’s wedding.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump makes new overtures to Democrats Gillibrand backs Manchin, Bredesen despite their support of Kavanaugh Senate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees 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 McConnellGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' 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 FlakeIMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Election Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach 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 CollinsGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked 'Suspicious letter' mailed to Maine home of Susan Collins 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 CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees 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 ShaheenBrunson release spotlights the rot in Turkish politics and judiciary Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Missing journalist strains US-Saudi ties | Senators push Trump to open investigation | Trump speaks with Saudi officials | New questions over support for Saudi coalition in Yemen Senators demand answers on Trump administration backing of Saudi coalition in Yemen 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 SchumerMcConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers Senate Dems race to save Menendez in deep-blue New Jersey 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.”