Kavanaugh sworn in
Senate vote split 50-48, with one Democrat voting for him
WASHINGTON — Judge Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to be an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday, ending a monthslong battle that laid bare the political divisions of a polarized nation and a nomination stained by uncorroborated allegations of sexual misconduct.
Kavanaugh, 53, was confirmed by the Senate by the narrowest of margins, 50-48, with one Democrat breaking ranks and voting in support of the embattled nominee and one Republican opposed, but voting “present” to allow a colleague to travel to Montana and attend his daughter’s wedding.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the confir-
mation “a good day for America and an important day for the Senate.”
“We stood up for the presumption of innocence,” McConnell said.
Kavanaugh adamantly denies the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him.
Democrats were anguished by the outcome. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Americans are “outraged by what happened here.”
“Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation is a low moment for the Senate, the court and the country,” Schumer said.
The confirmation is a major victory for President Donald Trump, who now has appointed two conservative justices to the high court.
“I very much appreciate those 50 great votes,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One, “and I think he’s going to go down as a totally brilliant Supreme Court justice for many years.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president signed Kavanaugh’s commission of appointment on Air Force One on Saturday, allowing the jurist to be officially sworn in as a Supreme Court justice.
The Supreme Court said Chief Justice John Roberts administered the constitutional oath and retired Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy administered the judicial oath in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court hours after the Senate vote Saturday.
Kavanaugh is expected to join the bench for oral arguments on Tuesday. A formal investiture ceremony will take place at a special sitting of the court at a later date.
A tilt to the right
Trump nominated Kavanaugh on July 9 to replace Kennedy, a swing vote on the court who sided with the liberal wing on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights.
Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, has a 12-year record of conservative rulings and his elevation to the high court is expected to tilt the bench to the right for decades to come.
As a presidential candidate, Trump promised to appoint anti-abortion justices and called on the conservative Federalist Society to prepare a list of candidates. Kavanaugh was selected from that list, and his nomination immediately drew opposition from women’s groups and abortion rights advocates.
That opposition exploded when it became public after confirmation hearings that Christine Blasey Ford had accused Kavanaugh of a sexual assault that she said occurred in 1982, when both were teenagers attending a party at a private home in an affluent Maryland suburb of Washington.
Ford, a research psychologist at Palo Alto University, testified under oath that she thought Kavanaugh was going to rape her. She said Kavanaugh and a friend, Mark Judge, were drunk and laughing during the ordeal, until she escaped.
A Yale University classmate, Deborah Ramirez, then came forward and claimed a drunken Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a dorm party.
Kavanaugh denied the allegations in an angry appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee where he accused Democrats on the panel of orchestrating a “political hit” to scuttle his nomination and belligerently mocked and threatened the senators: “What goes around, comes around.”
A supplemental FBI background check found no corroborating evidence to support the claims, a finding seized by Republicans to move forward with the confirmation vote. Democrats criticized the FBI report as a “whitewash” resulting from what they called an incomplete investigation.
Demonstrators swarm Capitol
Outside the Capitol, as the Senate prepared to vote, hundreds of protesters chanted “We believe survivors” and called on lawmakers to reject the nomination. Inside the Capitol hallways, demonstrators badgered senators with catcalls and angry name calling. Protesters were escorted from the Senate gallery when they shouted during speeches by lawmakers.
The Senate voted mostly along party lines. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was assured when Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the last two undecided senators, announced Friday their intent to vote for the nominee. Manchin was the only Democrat to vote for Kavanaugh.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was the only Republican to oppose the nomination. She said Kavanaugh was not “the right man” for the lifetime appointment. She cited his angry outburst at the committee, noting he may lack the judicial temperament that is needed to serve on the court.
But Murkowski voted “present” so that Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., could miss the Senate vote and attend his daughter’s wedding in the Big Sky State. Daines supported the nomination.
Nevada’s two senators voted along party lines. Republican Dean Heller voted to confirm Kavanaugh and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto voted to reject the nomination.
In a Senate floor speech, Cortez Masto said Kavanaugh’s “extreme, activist judicial philosophy will pose a threat to women, our environment, our constitutional separation of powers and our fundamental civil rights.”
After the vote, Cortez Masto, in a statement, said she was “profoundly disappointed.”
“I have no confidence that Judge Brett Kavanaugh will approach cases with the impartiality and restraint required of a Supreme Court justice,” she said.
Heller has championed Kavanaugh’s lengthy judicial record and announced his support after meeting with the nominee at the senator’s office in July.
“His legal career combined with his educational credentials make him an exceptionally qualified nominee,” Heller said after the vote.
The confirmation vote comes one month before the midterm election in which House and Senate control are in play.
“It’s turned our base on fire,” McConnell said of the fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Democrats hope that the vote 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,” Schumer said.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation has already become an issue in the Nevada Senate race, where Heller is seeking re-election against a challenge by Democrat Rep. Jacky Rosen, a freshman lawmaker from Henderson.
Rosen called Heller a rubber stamp for Trump’s reckless agenda and criticized him for calling the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh “a little hiccup” in the process. Rosen said she was opposed to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Chief Justice John Roberts, right, administers the constitutional oath to Brett Kavanaugh in the Justices’ Conference Room at the Supreme Court. Ashley Kavanaugh holds the Bible as daughters Margaret, left, and Liza listen.