Judge Brett Kavanaugh won confirmation to the Supreme Court in the expected narrow Senate vote Saturday afternoon, at the end of an extraordinary partisan battle that spurred a mass protest by demonstrators outside the Capitol Building.
Kavanaugh, 53, a conservative District of Columbia Circuit Court judge for the past 12 years, will take the seat of the more moderate retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, solidifying a conservative majority on the nine-member Supreme Court for a generation.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Kennedy swore in Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court's conference room, allowing him to join the court in the 2018-19 term that began last Monday. He will join the other justices to hear cases at the court on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court," President Donald Trump tweeted. "Later today, I will sign his Commission of Appointment, and he will be officially sworn in. Very exciting."
Trump called Kavanaugh to congratulate him while flying on Air Force One to Topeka, Kansas, for a rally, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Trump also spoke to McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
The Senate approved Kavanaugh’s nomination in a 50-48 vote, with all Democrats except Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voting no and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voting “present” to pair her nay with the yea of the absent Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.).
The vote took place amid shouts from the gallery opposing Kavanaugh as Vice President Mike Pence sat in the well of the chamber and repeatedly called on the sergeant of arms to restore order in the gallery.
The confirmation of Kavanaugh represents a major victory for President Donald Trump, who has shifted the court to the right with his second appointment, and for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who vowed to plow through all obstacles to make it happen.
Republican and Democratic Senate leaders portrayed their bitter struggle over Kavanaugh as a high-stakes battle over the direction of the influential court and accused each other of unfair and bad faith tactics in the most extraordinarily partisan confirmation process in decades.
In his final remarks before the vote, McConnell called Kavanaugh “one of the very best our nation has to offer,” and said, “A vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh is a vote to end this brief dark chapter in the Senate’s history and turn the page to a brighter tomorrow.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Kavanaugh a flawed “nominee who doesn't belong on the nation's highest bench.”
“Truly Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation is a low moment for the Senate, for the court and for the country,” said Schumer, condemning the process as “a flashing red warning light of what to avoid.”
Coming just a month before the midterms, Kavanaugh’s confirmation already has become an issue being stoked by Trump, Republicans and Democrats, who hope the strong reactions the fight in Washington spurred will drive their voters to the polls.
“Our country needs to have a reckoning on these issues,” Schumer said. “Change must come from where change always comes: At the ballot box.”
It also has become a focus of the #MeToo movement after Christine Blasey Ford, 51, a psychology professor, made public accusations she had kept to herself for years that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a small gathering when they were in high school.
Those last-minute allegations threatened to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination and led to a special hearing a week ago Thursday to allow Ford and Kavanaugh to testify, followed by a weeklong pause in the process for a quick and limited FBI investigation.
But Republicans and Democrats — and millions of Americans, polls show — remain divided on whether to believe Ford or Kavanaugh.
Hundreds of demonstrators showed up on Capitol Hill to protest the Senate Republicans' confirmation of Kavanaugh, resulting in dozens of arrests around the Capitol Building’s steps. After police cleared them from the Capitol grounds they moved their protest across the street to the front of the Supreme Court building.
The disagreement extends to the FBI investigation that included interviews with nine people who could shed light on the alleged assault — Republicans say it found no corroboration for Ford’s claims, and Democrats say they believe Ford, doubt Kavanaugh’s credibility and reject the probe as a purposefully limited and incomplete review.
Kavanaugh would join the court under a cloud, confirmed by the narrowest margin since 1881, his confirmation produced in the most starkly partisan processes and opposed by the most raucous and disruptive opposition since the 1987 Robert Bork nomination.
July 9: President Donald Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh, 53, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
July 10: Kavanaugh travels to Capitol Hill to introduce himself to senators.
July 30: California professor Christine Blasey Ford sends a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., alleging Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when she was in high school decades ago. Feinstein withholds the letter at Ford’s request.
Sept. 4-7: The Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh. On the first day, dozens of protesters interrupt the proceedings several times. Throughout the next two days, Democrats question the nominee about his views on a range of issues that could come before the high court, including abortion and presidential power. On the final day, Locust Valley teacher Louisa Garry testifies as a character witness for Kavanaugh. The two have been friends since they met on their first day at Yale University 35 years ago.
Sept. 13: Feinstein acknowledges she received a letter about Kavanaugh but doesn’t disclose Ford’s identity. The senator says she sent the letter to the FBI, which had already finished Kavanaugh’s background check. The nominee denies the allegation.
Sept. 16: Ford identifies herself to The Washington Post.
Sept. 17-22: Ford offers to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee but wants the FBI to investigate her allegation. Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) rejects the professor’s request for another FBI investigation. Ford’s lawyers and committee staff members strike a deal for Ford to fly to Washington.
Sept. 23: A second woman, Deborah Ramirez, accuses Kavanaugh of exposing himself at a party when he was at Yale. The nominee denies the allegation.
Sept. 26: A third accuser, Julie Swetnick, alleges Kavanaugh was present at “gang rapes” at high school parties in the 1980s. The nominee dismisses the allegation.
Sept. 27: Ford and Kavanaugh tell their stories to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ford is questioned by sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who acts as a surrogate for GOP committee members. Kavanaugh denies the allegations and pushes back on Democrats who ask him about his drinking habits.
Sept. 28: The Senate Judiciary Committee advances the nomination along party lines. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Democrats join forces to get a limited FBI investigation into allegations. Trump orders the investigation.
Oct. 4: Senators get report of FBI investigation, which found “no corroboration of the allegations.”
Oct. 5: Senators vote to end debate and nomination gets enough votes to pass. A key undecided vote, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announces from the floor that she will support Kavanaugh.
Oct 6: The Senate approves the Kavanaugh nomination, 50 to 48.