Con­fir­ma­tion sets stage for col­li­sion

As Ka­vanaugh is sworn in, Supreme Court and elec­tion bat­tles loom

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Front Page -

Brett Ka­vanaugh was sworn in as a Supreme Court jus­tice Sat­ur­day night af­ter the bit­terly po­lar­ized U. S. Se­nate nar­rowly con­firmed him. The Se­nate vote de­liv­ered an elec­tion- sea­son tri­umph to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that could swing the court right­ward for a gen­er­a­tion af­ter a bat­tle that rubbed raw the coun­try’s cul­tural, gen­der and po­lit­i­cal di­vides.

Ka­vanaugh was quickly sworn in at the court build­ing, across the street from the Capi­tol, even as pro­test­ers chanted out­side.

The near party- line Se­nate vote was 50- 48, cap­ping a fight that seized the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion af­ter claims emerged that Ka­vanaugh had sex­u­ally as­saulted women three decades ago — which he em­phat­i­cally de­nied. Those al­le­ga­tions mag­ni­fied the clash from a rou­tine Supreme Court strug­gle over ju­di­cial ide­ol­ogy into an an­grier, more com­plex jum­ble of ques­tions about vic­tims’ rights, the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence and per­sonal at­tacks on nom­i­nees.

Ac­ri­mo­nious to the end, the bat­tle fea­tured a cli­mac­tic roll call that was in­ter­rupted sev­eral times by pro­test­ers in the Se­nate gal­leries be­fore Capi­tol Po­lice re­moved them. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence presided over the roll call, his po­ten­tial tie- break­ing vote un­nec­es­sary.

Trump, fly­ing to Kan­sas for a po­lit­i­cal rally, flashed a thumbs- up ges­ture when the tally was an­nounced and praised Ka­vanaugh for be­ing “able to with­stand this hor­ri­ble, hor­ri­ble at­tack by the Democrats.”

The vote gave Trump his sec­ond ap­pointee to the court, pleas­ing con­ser­va­tive vot­ers who might have re­volted against GOP lead­ers had Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion flopped. In­stead, “It’s turned our base on fire,” Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R- Ky., told re­porters.

Democrats hope that the roll call, ex­actly a month from elec­tions in which House and Se­nate con­trol are in play, will do the op­po­site, prompt­ing in­fu­ri­ated women and lib­er­als to oust Repub­li­cans.

“Change must come from where change in Amer­ica al­ways be­gins: the bal­lot box,” said Demo­cratic leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, look­ing ahead to No­vem­ber.

Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Vir­ginia, con­fronting a tough re- elec­tion race next month in a state that Trump won in 2016

by a land­slide, was the sole Demo­crat to vote for Ka­vanaugh. Ev­ery vot­ing Repub­li­can backed the 53year- old con­ser­va­tive judge.

Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, the only Repub­li­can to op­pose the nom­i­nee, voted “present,” off­set­ting the ab­sence of Ka­vanaugh sup­porter Steve Daines, of Mon­tana, who was at­tend­ing his daugh­ter’s wed­ding. That rare pro­ce­dural ma­neu­ver left Ka­vanaugh with the same two- vote mar­gin he’d have had if Murkowski and Daines had both voted.

Repub­li­cans hold only a 51- 49 Se­nate ma­jor­ity and there­fore had lit­tle sup­port to spare.

It was the clos­est roll call to con­firm a jus­tice since 1881, when Stan­ley Matthews was ap­proved by 24- 23, ac­cord­ing to Se­nate records.

Within min­utes, dozens of po­lit­i­cal and ad­vo­cacy groups blasted out emailed re­ac­tions.

Stephanie Schri­ock, pres­i­dent of EMILY’s List, which con­trib­utes to fe­male Demo­cratic can­di­dates, as­sailed the con­fir­ma­tion of “an al­leged sex­ual as­sailant and anti- choice rad­i­cal to a life­time ap­point­ment on the Supreme Court. But we will carry that anger into the elec­tion. Women will not for­get this.”

Kay Coles James, pres­i­dent of the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion, called the vote “a vic­tory for lib­erty in Amer­ica” and called Ka­vanaugh “a good man and good ju­rist.”

The out­come, tele­graphed Fri­day when the fi­nal un­de­clared se­na­tors re­vealed their views, was de­void of the shocks that had come al­most daily since Chris­tine Blasey Ford said last month that an ine­bri­ated Ka­vanaugh tried to rape her at a 1982 high school get- to­gether.

Since then, the coun­try watched agape as one elec­tric mo­ment af­ter an­other gushed forth. These in­cluded the emer­gence of two other ac­cusers; an un­for­get­table Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing at which a com­posed Ford and a seething Ka­vanaugh told their di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed sto­ries, and a trun­cated FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion that the agency said showed no cor­rob­o­rat­ing ev­i­dence and Democrats lam­basted as a White House- shack­led farce.

All the while, crowds of de­mon­stra­tors — mostly Ka­vanaugh op­po­nents — ric­o­cheted around the Capi­tol’s grounds and hall­ways, rais­ing ten­sions, chant­ing slo­gans, in­ter­rupt­ing law­mak­ers’ de­bates, con­fronting se­na­tors and of­ten get­ting ar­rested. Capi­tol Po­lice said 164 were ar­rested, rais­ing that count in re­cent days well into the hun­dreds.

In­side the Se­nate, re­sent­ments fanned by the bat­tle showed no signs of re­ced­ing.

Schumer called the GOP’s push for Ka­vanaugh “one of the least trans­par­ent, least fair, most bi­ased pro­cesses in Se­nate his­tory.” McCon­nell said a vote for Ka­vanaugh showed that the Se­nate was “a cham­ber in which the pol­i­tics of in­tim­i­da­tion and per­sonal de­struc­tion do not win the day.”

Democrats said Ka­vanaugh would push the court too far, in­clud­ing pos­si­ble sym­pa­thetic rul­ings for Trump should the pres­i­dent en­counter le­gal prob­lems from the spe­cial coun­sel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sian con­nec­tions with his 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. And they said Ka­vanaugh’s record and fum­ing tes­ti­mony at a now- fa­mous Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing showed he lacked the fair­ness, tem­per­a­ment and even hon­esty to be­come a jus­tice.

But the fight was de­fined by the sex­ual as­sault ac­cu­sa­tions. And it was fought against the back­drop of the # MeToo move­ment and Trump’s unyield­ing sup­port of his nom­i­nee and oc­ca­sional mock­ing of Ka­vanaugh’s ac­cusers.

Chris K. Le­po­nis / AFP / Getty Im­ages

Hand­out photo / Via Getty Im­ages

Above, pro­test­ers demon­strate Sat­ur­day out­side the U. S. Supreme Court in Wash­ing­ton, D. C. At left, Chief Jus­tice John G. Roberts Jr., ad­min­is­ters the Con­sti­tu­tional Oath to Brett Ka­vanaugh, stand­ing with daugh­ter, Liza, as his wife, Ash­ley Ka­vanaugh, holds the Bi­ble in the court build­ing.

Chris Kle­po­nis / AFP / Getty Im­ages

Pro­test­ers demon­strate on Sat­ur­day out­side the U. S. Supreme Court in Wash­ing­ton, where they ex­pressed their op­po­si­tion to the con­fir­ma­tion of Brett Ka­vanaugh.

Jacque­lyn Martin / As­so­ci­ated Press

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks to re­porters out­side the White House in Wash­ing­ton on Sat­ur­day be­fore the Se­nate voted to con­firm Brett Ka­vanaugh as a Supreme Court jus­tice.

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