Se­nate con­firms Ka­vanaugh for Supreme Court

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By ALAN FRAM and LISA MASCARO

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — The bit­terly po­lar­ized U.S. Se­nate nar­rowly con­firmed Brett Ka­vanaugh on Satur­day to join the Supreme Court, de­liv­er­ing 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.

The near party-line 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 claims 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 Gallery be­fore Capi­tol Po­lice re­moved them.

The vote gave Trump his sec­ond ap­pointee to the court, tilt­ing it fur­ther to the right and pleas­ing con­ser­va­tive vot­ers who might have re­volted against GOP lead­ers had Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion flopped. Democrats hope that the roll call, ex­actly a month from elections in which House and Se­nate con­trol are in play, will prompt in­fu­ri­ated women and lib­er­als to stream to the polls to oust Repub­li­cans.

In fi­nal re­marks just

be­fore the vot­ing, Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Mitch McConnell of Ken­tucky said a vote for Ka­vanaugh was “a vote to end this brief, dark chap­ter in the Se­nate’s his­tory and turn the page to­ward a brighter to­mor­row.”

Demo­cratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York looked ahead to Novem­ber, ap­peal­ing to vot­ers be­yond the Se­nate cham­ber: “Change must come from where change in Amer­ica al­ways be­gins: the bal­lot box.”

Rep. 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 53-year-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.

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

Murkowski said Fri­day that Ka­vanaugh was “a good man,” but his “ap­pear­ance of im­pro­pri­ety has be­come un­avoid­able.” Repub­li­cans hold only a 51-49 Se­nate ma­jor­ity and there­fore had lit­tle sup­port to spare.

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 at elec­tric mo­ments. Th­ese in­cluded the emer­gence of two other ac­cusers; an un­for­get­table Se­nate Ju­di­ciar y 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.

Trump weighed in Satur­day morn­ing on be­half of the man he nom­i­nated in July. “Big day for Amer­ica!” he tweeted.

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.

About 100 anti-Ka­vanaugh pro­test­ers climbed the Capi­tol’s East Steps as the vote ap­proached, pump­ing fists and wav­ing signs. U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice be­gan ar­rest­ing some of them. Hun­dreds of other demon­stra­tors watched from be­hind bar­ri­cades. Pro­test­ers have roamed Capi­tol Hill cor­ri­dors and grounds daily, chant­ing, “Novem­ber is com­ing,” ‘’Vote them out” and “We be­lieve sur­vivors.”

On Fri­day, in the mo­ment that made clear Ka­vanaugh would pre­vail, Collins de­liv­ered a speech say­ing that Ford’s Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee telling of the al­leged 1982 as­sault was “sin­cere, painful and com­pelling.” But she also said the FBI had found no cor­rob­o­rat­ing ev­i­dence from wit­nesses whose names Ford had pro­vided.

“We must al­ways re­mem­ber that it is when pas­sions are most in­flamed that fair­ness is most in jeop­ardy,” said Collins, per­haps the cham­ber’s most mod­er­ate Repub­li­can.

Manchin used an emailed state­ment to an­nounce his sup­port for Ka­vanaugh mo­ments af­ter Collins fin­ished talk­ing. Manchin, the only Demo­crat sup­port­ing the nom­i­nee, faces a com­pet­i­tive re-elec­tion race next month in a state Trump car­ried in 2016 by 42 per­cent­age points.

Manchin ex­pressed em­pa­thy for sex­ual as­sault vic­tims. But he said that af­ter fac­tor­ing in the FBI re­port, “I have found Judge Ka­vanaugh to be a qual­i­fied ju­rist who will fol­low the Constitution.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who has bat­tled re­peat­edly with Trump and will re­tire in Jan­uary, said he, too, planned to vote for Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion.

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence planned to be avail­able in case his tie-break­ing vote was needed.

In the pro­ce­dural vote Fri­day that handed Repub­li­cans their cru­cial ini­tial vic­tory, sen­a­tors voted 51-49 to limit de­bate, de­feat­ing Demo­cratic ef­forts to scut­tle the nom­i­na­tion with end­less de­lays.

When Trump nom­i­nated Ka­vanaugh in July, Democrats leapt to op­pose him, say­ing past state­ments and opin­ions showed he’d be a threat to the Roe v. Wade case that as­sured the right to abor­tion. They said he also seemed too ready to rule for Trump in a pos­si­ble fed­eral court case against the pres­i­dent.

Yet Ka­vanaugh’s path to con­fir­ma­tion seemed un­fet­tered un­til Ford and two other women emerged with sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions from the 1980s.

Ka­vanaugh would re­place the re­tired Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy, who was a swing vote on is­sues such as abor­tion, cam­paign fi­nance and same-sex mar­riage.

As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Mary Clare Jalonick, Matthew Daly, Pad­mananda Rama, Ken Thomas and Cather­ine Lucey con­trib­uted to this re­port.

AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the cham­ber for the fi­nal vote to con­firm Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh, at the Capi­tol in Wash­ing­ton, Satur­day, Oct. 6.

AP PHOTO/AN­DREW HARNIK

Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh tes­ti­fies be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, Thurs­day, Sept. 27.

AP PHOTO/ALEX BRAN­DON

Ac­tivists chant as they are ar­rested by Capi­tol Hill Po­lice of­fi­cers af­ter oc­cu­py­ing the steps on the East Front of the U.S. Capi­tol as they protest the con­fir­ma­tion vote of Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh on Capi­tol Hill, Satur­day, Oct. 6, in Wash­ing­ton.

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