The Senate voted to send Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on Saturday, ushering in a generational conservative majority and delivering a huge victory to President Donald Trump after a vicious confirmation battle inflamed by allegations of sexual assault against the nominee.
As shrieks of “shame, shame, shame” echoed from the public galleries, divided and angry senators voted 50-48 to endorse a lifetime seat on the court for Kavanaugh. The protests underscored the vital importance of an appointment that will have sweeping consequences for some of the nation’s most contested disputes over abortion, LGBT rights, the scope of presidential power and the role of religion in society.
Hours later, Kavanaugh was sworn in at a private ceremony at the Supreme Court by Chief Justice John Roberts and the man he will replace, retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. Outside, a crowd of noisy protestors gathered, and was eventually pushed back from the ornate building’s steps by police.
The bitter fight over Kavanaugh now moves into the epicenter of the campaign for the midterm elections in November. Republicans are convinced it will motivate their sleepy base. Democrats believe a backlash against the GOP from women voters could help deliver the House of Representatives. And the nature of the fight over Kavanaugh will trigger recriminations inside the Senate and political reverberations outside for years to come.
In the end, Republicans were able to use their stranglehold on Capitol Hill and the White House to muscle through the confirmation in a power play that reflected the momentous importance of Trump’s 2016 election victory over Hillary Clinton.
Still, it was a close-run thing: Kavanaugh’s nomination was nearly derailed by Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that the judge assaulted her when they were teenagers in the 1980s, which sparked uproar and forced Republicans to delay the confirmation vote for a week to allow time for a supplemental FBI background check.
Trump took a victory lap before an enthusiastic crowd at a rally in Topeka, Kansas, on what he hailed as a “historic night.”
“I stand before you today on the heels of a tremendous victory for our nation, our people and our beloved Constitution,” Trump said. He dismissed the allegations against Kavanaugh by accusing Democrats of waging a “shameless campaign of political and personal destruction.”