The US Senate has confirmed Brett Kavanaugh as the 114th Supreme Court Justice by one of the narrowest margins in history amid mass protests, ending a vitriolic battle that began as a debate over judicial ideology and concluded with a national reckoning over sexual misconduct.
As a chorus of women in the Senate’s public galleries repeatedly interrupted the proceedings on Saturday night with cries of “Shame!”, somber-looking senators voted 50 to 48 – almost entirely along party lines – to elevate Judge Kavanaugh, reports The New York Times.
The 53-year-old Kavanaugh was promptly sworn in by both Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy – the court’s longtime swing vote, whom he will replace – in a private ceremony.
“He’s going to go down as a totally brilliant Supreme Court Justice for many years,” an elated President Donald Trump told reporters, whom he had invited to join him in watching the vote on television aboard Air Force One.
Trump also derided the sizable protests against Judge Kavanaugh on the steps of the Supreme Court and the Capitol as “phony stuff”, and said it was a misnomer to imply that women were upset at his confirmation.
“Women, I feel, were in many ways stronger than the men in this fight,” the President said.
“Women were outraged at what happened to Brett Kavanaugh. Outraged.”
The brutal confirmation fight is likely to have far-reaching implications in next month’s midterm elections.
Republicans are confronting an electrified Democratic base led by women infuriated by the treatment of professor Christine Blasey Ford, who detailed in emotional testimony her allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
Republicans have said that the battle to get Kavanaugh confirmed only motivated a fractured party electorate on a singularly unifying issue for conservatives: the federal judiciary.
“It’s been a great political gift for us. The tactics have energised our base,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Washington Post.
“I want to thank the mob, because they’ve done the one thing we were having trouble doing, which was energising our base.”
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, called the nomination “one of the saddest moments in the history of the Senate” and said, “this chapter will be a flashing red warning light of what to avoid”.
Republicans “conducted one of the least transparent, least fair, most biased processes in Senate history, slanting the table from the very beginning to produce their desired result”, he added.
The two-vote margin for Kavanaugh was the narrowest for a confirmed Supreme Court Justice since 1881, when the Senate confirmed Stanley Matthews, a nominee of President James A. Garfield’s.
Ahead of the vote, hundreds of people protested against Kavanaugh’s nomination at the US Capitol in Washington. Protesters had gathered outside the court and at one point some ran up the steps and banged on its ornate doors. Other demonstrators climbed on the nearby statue of justice.