Kavanaugh sworn in as newest associate justice, concluding deeply bitter Supreme Court fight

Brett Kavanaugh sworn-in as Supreme Court Justice

(RNN) – Despite the cries of hundreds of protesters on Capitol Hill and several outbursts in the gallery, the saga of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination came to an end on Saturday, when the Senate voted 50-48 to confirm him as the newest associate justice.

Kavanaugh was sworn in just hours after his confirmation. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the constitutional oath and retired Justice Anthony Kennedy administered the judicial oath.

All of this happened as protesters continued to demonstrate on the steps of the Supreme Court.

The Senate needed just 51 votes to confirm Kavanaugh, rather than the official Senate rule of 60 votes under a cloture motion. This is a result of a Democrat move in 2013 to make use of the so-called “nuclear option” to move along then-President Barack Obama appointments.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) missed the vote because it happened on the same day as his daughter’s wedding. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted on his behalf.

Daines' vote would have been yay, but Murkowski said her’s would’ve been no. Ultimately, she decided to honor his wishes and withdraw her vote. It did not affect the final outcome of the vote.

It has been nearly three months since President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh, a District Court judge for the District of Columbia, to fill the retiring Anthony Kennedy’s seat.

Initially seen as a well-qualified, mostly uncontroversial choice with a smooth path to confirmation in the Republican-held Senate, the mid-September revelation that a woman, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, had accused him of attempting to rape her at an early 1980s high school party launched one of the most pitched political battles in the modern history of the Supreme Court.

A divided Senate, and country, grappled with how to address the allegation.

Democrats and the broader left stressed the great difficulty assault survivors face to be heard and believed, as the #MeToo movement rallied around Ford, and later Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, who accused Kavanaugh of other instances of misconduct.

Republicans and the broader right grounded their arguments in the principles of due process and the presumption of innocence, emphasizing the absence of contemporary corroborating accounts for Ford’s and Ramirez’s accusations, and in particular attacking the salaciousness and severity of Swetnick’s claims.

The fight was punctuated by an extraordinary Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 27, in which Ford and Kavanaugh gave their testimony in front of an enrapt nation.

It was followed by a weeklong FBI investigation, a last grasp at definitive clarity that had been widely called for by Democrats wanting a broader inquiry and agreed to by Republicans needing to shore up final votes.

Throughout, there was only ever a small handful of senators who were presumed to be swing votes. In the end, more of them concluded Kavanaugh was innocent.

While one red-state Democrat, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and one swing Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, declared they could not in good conscious vote for Kavanaugh, another red-state Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and a swing Republican, Jeff Flake of Arizona, declared they could not ultimately see a good reason to vote against him.

The key vote, though, belonged to Republican Susan Collins of Maine, and she delivered a long speech from the Senate floor on Friday explaining why she would endorse Kavanaugh for the nation’s highest court.

“Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have far fewer 5-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our Judiciary and our highest court is restored,” she said. “Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

Kavanaugh’s public hearings began on Sept. 4. Then the focus was on jurisprudence, with Democrats questioning him on his positions regarding abortion rights, executive power, civil liberties and national security, and his how own religious convictions shape his legal thinking.

Even at that point, his hearing was dotted with interruptions by protesters, and Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were at odds over documents related to Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House.

Protesters: 'We don't want Kavanaugh'

Five days after the conclusion of his hearings, The Intercept first reported on Ford’s allegation, which had been disclosed in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, in July.

That report revealed she hadn’t shared the letter with fellow Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. It later emerged Ford had asked Feinstein to respect her anonymity. It is not known how the existence of the letter leaked to The Intercept.

But, four days later, as reporters began to find her, Ford went public in an article in The Washington Post.

In the following days Kavanaugh would deny the allegation, the Judiciary Committee would ask Ford to testify, her lawyers would request an FBI investigation first, and she would eventually agree to the Sept. 27 hearing.

And still before that, Ramirez and Swetnick came forward with their allegations and Kavanaugh defended himself in a Fox News interview with his wife, Ashley, at his side.

Throughout this, the usually bombastic president notably held his fire on Ford. Trump consistently maintained he thought Kavanaugh was being treated unfairly, but did not attack his accuser.

(Weeks later, at a rally in Mississippi on Wednesday, Trump did mock Ford’s testimony.)

It all culminated in the hearing late last month, where Ford delivered a compelling account of her assault and said with 100 percent certainty it was committed by Kavanaugh.

The judge then made his own fiery, emotional denial, also insisting with 100 percent certainty he had never assaulted Ford or anyone else.

As Democrats pressed him on his younger drinking habits, crude references in his high school yearbook and his aversion to an FBI investigation, Republicans - including Kavanaugh himself - decried the public spectacle as disgraceful.

In the end, extreme revulsion of one kind or another at all of this, and at each other, was probably the one thing the left and right agreed upon.

The political fallout will echo for a long while.

Already, angry and energized activists on the left have made Collins a particular target, and more broadly are gearing up for November midterms they will see as a referendum on the “horrific cover-up,” as Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR, called it, a process that did a disservice to women everywhere.

Conservatives, meanwhile, have bolstered their own angry base, who saw Kavanaugh’s battle as a character assassination best summed up by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who during the Sept. 27 testimony called the process the “most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics.”

What will echo even longer, however, is Kavanaugh’s impact on the court.

More conservative than Kennedy, and younger than all but one justice, he promises to tip the ideological balance of the Supreme Court to the right for a generation.

How his deeply bitter confirmation shapes him going forward remains to be seen.

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