The long, torturous journey of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court cleared its last political barricade Saturday as the Senate approved his nomination by a vote of 50-48.
Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the Senate, repeatedly called for security officials to respond to outbursts and protests in the Senate Gallery that marred the final chapter in a process that was defined by unprecedented hostility and confrontation.
Speculation over which wavering senators support or oppose Kavanaugh ended Friday when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia broke with Democrats and committed to vote in favor of the judge. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona announced he would support Kavanaugh, but Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she would vote against his confirmation.
Although Murkowski said she opposed Kavanaugh, she played a role in the process to confirm him. She and Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana used a rare Senate procedural device called pairing, Roll Call reported.
This allows the senators to agree ahead of time that their votes will cancel each other out. Daines was in Montana for the wedding of his daughter — a date obviously chosen long before the confirmation hearing date was set. He had planned to fly back after the vows to Washington to cast his vote, but the deal with Murkowski meant he could stay at the wedding.
Murkowski said that she hoped using the device of pairing votes with an opponent would be a reminder to the Senate and nation that there are ways people of opposing beliefs can be civil, Fox News reported.
“It will not change the outcome of the vote,” Murkowski said. “But I do hope that it reminds us that we can take very small, very small steps to be gracious with one another. And maybe those small, gracious steps can lead to more.”
Trump tweeted his encouragement Saturday to those backing his second Supreme Court nominee.
Women for Kavanaugh, and many others who support this very good man, are gathering all over Capitol Hill in preparation for a 3-5 P.M. VOTE. It is a beautiful thing to see – and they are not paid professional protesters who are handed expensive signs. Big day for America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2018
Democrats spent the hours before the vote predicting dire times for the nation with Kavanaugh on the court. Many referenced the unsubstantiated, uncorroborated allegations of sexual misconduct that dominated the last two weeks of the confirmation process.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said putting Kavanaugh on the court was the same as telling females “your experiences don’t matter.”
She said men are also the losers.
“They can grab women without their consent and brag about it,” Murray said. “They can sexually assault women, laugh about it. And they’re probably going to be fine. They can even grow up to be president of the United States or a justice on the Supreme Court.”
Hostility had the edge on healing as of Saturday afternoon.
Sen. Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine who remained on the fence to the end when she sided with Kavanaugh, lashed out at the tactics of the anti-Kavanaugh crowd on Friday, saying the confirmation process had become a “caricature of a gutter-level political campaign” and said anti-Kavanaugh groups distorted his record with “over-the-top rhetoric,” Fox News reported.
By Saturday, a website to fund challengers to Collins was up and running, and attracted a bevy of Obama-era officials.
“Who wants to run for Senate in Maine? There will be an army of supporters with you,” tweeted Jen Psaki, a former White House communications director under President Barack Obama.
— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) October 5, 2018
“Me,” replied Susan E. Rice, Obama’s former United Nations ambassador and national security adviser. Rice later said her plans were not as definite as her one-word tweet indicated.
On Friday, Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both part of the court’s liberal wing and both appointed by former President Barack Obama, mused about how the unprecedented confirmation battle might impact the court.
“Part of the court’s strength and part of the court’s legitimacy depends on people not seeing the court in the way that people see the rest of the governing structures of this country now. In other words, people thinking of the court as not politically divided in the same way, as not an extension of politics, but instead somehow above the fray, even if not always and in every case,” Kagan said.
Sotomayor said the justices need to be respectful.
“We have to rise above partisanship in our personal relationships,” she said. “We have to treat each other with respect and dignity and with a sense of amicability that the rest of the world doesn’t often share.”
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