The Senate voted narrowly Saturday to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a major victory for President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans that secures a conservative majority on the high court.
Despite weeks of allegations of sexual misconduct, backroom deals, dramatic hearings and rage-filled protests that pitted the #MeToo movement against Trump and the all-male GOP hierarchy, Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 50-48 margin. It was the closest Supreme Court vote since the battle over Clarence Thomas in 1991.
Only Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W-Va.) crossed the aisle and voted with Republicans.
Sen. Lisa Murkowkski (R-Alaska), who opposed Kavanaugh, voted present, “pairing” her vote with Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), a Kavanaugh backer who was back home for his daughter’s wedding.
Kavanaugh was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts and retired Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy later Saturday.
Yet Saturday’s proceedings were anticlimactic after the Senate soap opera that came before. Senators sat at their desks and called out their votes of “Yes” or “No” on Kavanaugh, a bit of theater as everyone present knew how it would turn out. After it was over, Republicans shook hands, slapped each other on the back and hugged, while Democrats quickly left the floor dejected and angry.
A huge crowd of protesters gathered in front of the Supreme Court and on the Capitol lawn in the hours leading up to the vote, chanting anti-Kavanaugh slogans, but it didn’t change the outcome.
At one point, a group of protesters ran up the East Steps of the Capitol and tried to enter the Rotunda but were turned away by U.S. Capitol Police. More than 160 protesters were arrested by the afternoon, according to a Capitol Police statement, continuing the trend of mass arrests over the past few weeks. Later, protesters gathered at the Supreme Court moved to the back of the building, in an attempt to intercept the car carrying Kavanaugh.
Inside the Capitol, the mood was calm, although protesters in the gallery frequently disrupted the Senate’s debate on Kavanaugh. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that outbursts like those and the attempts of anti-Kavanaugh activists to pressure GOP senators to oppose the nominee had backfired.
“The Senate’s really been under assault, by demonstrators, many of whom I suspect are paid and organized,” McConnell told POLITICO during an interview on Saturday. “And at this point, I think it’s safe to say I should be grateful the tactics helped unify our side and get to the majority.”
Saturday’s outcome was never in doubt following Friday’s drama. Manchin and GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced late in the afternoon they would back Kavanaugh, ensuring he had at least 50 votes for confirmation. Murkowski was the sole Republican senator to break ranks and oppose Kavanaugh. Another Republican holdout, Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), came out in favor of the nominee earlier in the day.