After a month long, fierce partisan battle over sexual assault allegations, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as the 114th Supreme Court justice in a 50-48 vote on Saturday. Shortly after the Senate confirmation, Kavanaugh was sworn in in a private ceremony by Chief Justice John Roberts, who administered the constitutional oath, and retired Justice Anthony Kennedy administered the judicial oath.
The confirmation of President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court justice saw the most bitter fight since Justice Roberts narrowly won confirmation in 1991. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was thrown into chaos by a string of sudden sexual assault allegations that surfaced just as his nomination was ready to advance to the Senate floor after a week long confirmation hearing early September.
One accusation by Christine Blasey Ford, who claimed Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her at a party in high school over 36 years ago led to a dramatic second hearing and resulted in a week long FBI investigation. Democrats said the claims were credible and called for the further investigation. Republicans conceded to the demand for a weeklong FBI investigation by Sen. Flake last Friday, who said he would not vote to confirm Kavanaugh without an F.B.I. investigation lasting “not more than one week.”
“I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI do an investigation limited in time and scope [on] the current allegations that are there,” Flake said. “We ought to do what we can to make sure we do all due diligence with a nomination this important.”
A weeklong FBI investigation was granted by President Trump, in which it concluded 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.”
The confirmation vote was all but secured on Friday when undecided Sens. Manchin D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced they would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, along with Sen. Flake. Manchin was the sole Democrat to vote “yes” while Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was the only Republican to vote “no,” but voted “present” as a courtesy of Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who was attending his daughter’s wedding in Montana.
Collins 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,” Collins said. “The four witnesses she named could not corroborate any of the events of that evening gathering where she says the assault occurred. I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court.”
“I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” Collins concluded in a 40-minute Senate floor speech Friday afternoon.
After Collins speech, Sen. Murkowski, explained her decision Friday night, saying 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,” Murkowski said. But, in my conscience, because that’s how I have to vote. I could not conclude that he is the right person for the court at this time.”
Prior to the Senate vote on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered a speech touting Kavanaugh’s nomination prior to the vote confirmation
“A vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh today is a vote to end this brief, dark chapter in the Senate’s history and turn the page toward a brighter tomorrow,” McConnell said where Vice President Pence presided. “This is a chamber in which the politics of intimidation and personal destruction do not win the day.”
President Trump celebrated Kavanaugh’s imminent confirmation as he boarded Marine One to Kansas for a campaign rally.
“He’s going to be a great, great Supreme Court justice,” Trump said. “It’s an exciting time.”
At a rally in Topeka, Kansas, Trump hailed the confirmation as a “tremendous victory” and slammed Democrats for their treatment of Kavanaugh during the contentious confirmation hearing.
“What he and his family endured at the hands of Democrats is unthinkable. In their quest for power, the radical Democrats have turned into an angry mob, you saw that today with the screaming and shouting,” he said, referring to protests outside the Senate and Supreme Court earlier in the day.
After the vote, House Democrats are now threatening to reopen the investigation into allegations against Kavanaugh if they win back the majority in November.
“We are going to have to do something to provide a check and balance, to protect the rule of law and to protect the legitimacy of one of our most important institution,” Nadler told the New York Times.