Weeks of negotiations, accusations, emotional speeches, high drama and partisan anger that divided the country into identity camps ended today with Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as an Associate Justice to the US Supreme Court.
As expected, the vote went strictly along party lines, giving Kavanaugh a narrow 50-48 victory. There were several disruptions in the Senate gallery before the final vote was taken, causing presiding Vice President Mike Pence to ask for order to be restored. Shouting could be heard at several junctures and some spectators were forcibly removed.
The vote today followed Friday’s decision to end debate on the nominee, who had been accused of sexual misconduct by several women when he was in high school and college. The FBI investigated the accusations and found no corroborating evidence, clearing the way for today’s Senate vote.
The final vote hinged on GOP senators Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, as well as Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state Trump won big in the 2016 presidential election. All declared their allegiances before the final tally, making the actual vote largely pro-forma.
Given that, the bigger question looming for many is what would happen after the confirmation, both in the Supreme Court and in the streets. Kavanaugh has stated he will be non-partisan, but many of his opponents fear his elevation to the high court is a tipping point toward a more conservative body, particularly with regard to any deliberations on the precedent of Roe v. Wade abortion rights.
In today’s Senate vote on the Kavanaugh confirmation, Collins and Flake voted yes, while Murkowski voted to withdraw her “no” vote, a move she made to soften her decision to oppose the nomination. Murkowski claimed on Friday her decision was made so that Montana Republican Sen. Steven Daines, considered a reliable Kavanaugh vote, would not have to fly back from his daughter’s wedding today to cast his vote.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled the final vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy after the required 30-hour waiting period after passing a nominee from committee to the Senate vote, a procedure known as cloture.
To confirm Kavanaugh, it took only a simple majority of 51 “yes” votes. Republicans hold 51 Senate seats, while Democrats and two independents aligned with them hold the remaining 49. Kavanaugh was originally nominated by President Donald Trump on July 9.