Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to US supreme court after Senate votes in favour 50-48

The Guardian – By Sabrina Siddiqui and Lauren Gambino in Washington – Sat 6 Oct 2018


Brett Kavanaugh. Saturday’s outcome was all but confirmed after Kavanaugh cleared a key procedural vote on Friday. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

The US Senate has voted to confirm judge Brett Kavanaugh to the supreme court, handing Donald Trump a major victory and America a bench expected to tilt to the right for the next generation.

The vote was almost a foregone conclusion after the dominant Republican party secured majority support during a procedural vote on Friday amid crackling tension, furious protests and high drama on Capitol Hill.

But the final vote was still a monumental development in a sharply divided America. It came down to stark political loyalties in the face of multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh from his past, which brought up current questions about his honesty, temperament and partisanship during testimony.

Kavanaugh has strongly denied all allegations of such misconduct. Votes fell almost entirely along party lines and the nomination passed narrowly, 50-48, one of the closest votes in the history of the court. The vote was interrupted at least four times by protesters in the gallery.

Donald Trump flashed two thumbs up aboard Air Force One on his way to a rally in Kansas on Saturday night. At the supreme court, where protesters continued to chant on the court steps, Kavanaugh was poised to be sworn in by chief justice John Roberts and the retired judge he is replacing, Anthony Kennedy, later Saturday night. He is expected to take his seat on the bench on Tuesday.

The vice-president, Mike Pence, who was presiding over the Senate vote, repeatedly banged his gavel down and called out: “The sergeant at arms will restore order in the gallery”. Protesters screamed out “I am a patriot” and “shame, shame”, delaying the vote for a few minutes.

Moments before the vote, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said “Brett Kavanaugh does not deserve to be on the bench” and said he had “repeatedly misled the Senate”.

Kavanaugh, Schumer said, is against “environmental protections, women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT rights, Native American rights, healthcare protections and workers’ rights.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said many across the political spectrum describe Kavanaugh as “a superstar and a legendary scholar” and described him as being of “excellent” temperament and judicial philosophy.

The conservative victory capped a triumphant week for the president. Trump strong-armed a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, which the markets loved, marked the lowest unemployment rate in the US since 1969, at just 3.7%, and secured the second ultra-conservative supreme court nomination of his administration, after putting Neil Gorsuch on the bench last year. Although, in another roller coaster week for the White House, Trump was hit by a huge investigation by the New York Times that described dubious aspects of his past financial background and prompted the New York tax authorities to begin an investigation.

Kavanaugh was nominated by Trump in July to replace the retiring and traditionally more liberal swing vote justice Anthony Kennedy.

Kavanaugh cleared a key procedural vote on Friday. In that result – 51 yes votes to 49 no votes in the 100-seat Senate, moderate Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the lone Republican to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. Joe Manchin, a red state Democrat facing a touch re-election battle in West Virginia, was the only Democrat to break from his party and back the judge.

Thousands of protesters, many of them victims of sexual assault flooded the US Capitol in the days leading up to the vote, with impassioned pleas toward politicians to reject Kavanaugh. But two closely-watched Republican moderate senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who had been confronted by furious protesters in a Senate building elevator, ultimately gave Kavanaugh their stamp of approval.

The tense scenes unfolded a week after Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychiatrist and university professor in northern California, delivered emotional testimony before the Senate judiciary committee accusing Kavanaugh of attempted rape when the two were teenagers in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh vehemently denied the claims in his own appearance before the panel, blasting the controversy as a coordinated smear campaign by Democrats.

The judge’s aggressive turn raised fresh concerns over his impartiality and prompted the American Bar Association, the largest legal organization in the US, to reopen its evaluation of Kavanaugh. In a highly unusual step, retired supreme court justice John Paul Stevens, a lifelong Republican, said Kavanaugh’s performance at the hearing was disqualifying.

Kavanaugh sought to repair his reputation in an opinion article published late Thursday in the conservative editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal.

“I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said,” he wrote. And the 53-year-old federal judge squeaked through, also surviving an FBI investigation into the allegations against him, which Republicans called “thorough” and Democrats called “incomplete” and a “cover up”.

The controversy over Kavanaugh’s nomination became one of most explosive and polarizing supreme court battles since 1991, when conservative justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed after being accused of sexual harassment by his former employee, Anita Hill. Though there were striking parallels, Ford’s allegation came in an era of increasing political tribalism and against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement against sexual violence and harassment.

Trump himself has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual harassment or assault.

The confirmation process earned bipartisan condemnation as a “sham,” a “three-ring circus” and, perhaps most colorfully, an “intergalactic freak show”.

Read entire article here

PS Disappointed at the outcome, but not surprised.

Posted by Teri Perticone


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