Washington, D.C., USA : The Senate today voted to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, 50-48, as Republicans dismissed s****l assault accusations against the conservative judge and delivered a major victory to President Donald Trump.
Protesters in the public viewing gallery regularly interrupted the vote, screaming “shame! Shame! Shame!” and causing brief upsets in the roll call vote.
Vice President Mike Pence, who serves as the president of the Senate, had to repeatedly call for the Sargent at arms to restore order in the gallery.
In the end, the vote came down as anticipated, with 50 votes in favor, 48 votes against, and 1 present, effectively confirming Kavanaugh as the next highest court in the land.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, noted that she would like her vote to be marked as “present,” in a logistical maneuver aimed to address the fact that another Republican, Sen. Steve Daines, was unable to attend the vote because he is scheduled to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. Daines wanted to vote in favor of Kavanaugh, and Murkowski paired her vote with his because they would have cancelled one another out.
The vote came after weeks of high-stakes political and human drama, as Kavanaugh defended himself against accusations of s****l misconduct.
The victory marked an instance of President Donald Trump following through on a key campaign promise to turn the court more conservative for generations.
Trump spoke briefly from the white House lawn before the Senate vote session started, saying that “in the end maybe the process, it was really unattractive, but the extra week was something that I think was really good. I thought it was really good. I think a lot of very positive things happened in the last week. It didn’t look that way but in the end that’s what happened.”
As for Kavanaugh, Trump said “he’s going in looking really good.”
Kavanaugh’s confirmation essentially became a done deal on Friday afternoon when Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a key undecided vote, announced on the Senate floor that, despite allegations of s****l assault and misconduct against him, “I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”
Just hours earlier, with Kavanaugh’s fate still uncertain, the full Senate had voted 51-49 to end debate and advance the nomination, after an additional FBI investigation seemed to turn nothing to corroborate the allegations.
“This is not a criminal trial, and I do not believe that claims such as these need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” Collins said in a lengthy speech defending her decision.
The Maine moderate Republican faced heavy political pressure, including from women who came from her home state and demanded that she side with Kavanaugh’s chief accuser, California professor Christine Blasey Ford, who claimed that a drunken Kavanaugh had attacked her at a party decades ago when they were both in high school in suburban Maryland.
“Nevertheless,” Collins continued, “fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet a threshold of more likely than not as our standard. The facts presented do not mean that professor Ford was not s******y assaulted that night or at some other time, but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the more likely than not standard.”
“Therefore,” she said, “I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court.”
Collins was quickly followed by West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, another key undecided vote, who issued a statement saying he, too, would vote “yes” on Kavanaugh, apparently giving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell the support he needs to get Kavanaugh confirmed, even if by one of the narrowest margins in history for a high court nominee.
Manchin, a red state Democrat in a close re-election fight, said that while he had “reservations’ given the accusations, he did what was “best for West Virginia,” persuaded Kavanaugh will “follow the Constitution.” Protesters shouted “shame” at him as he tried to board an elevator near his office.
Outgoing Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, also a key vote, voted “yes” to move forward, but Collins’ fellow Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, split from her party to vote “no.”
Explaining why to reporters, Murkowski said, “I believe we’re dealing with issues right now that are bigger than the nominee and how we ensure fairness and how our legislative and judicial branch can continue to be respected. This is what I have been wrestling with, and so I made the — took the very difficult vote that I did.”
“I believe Brett Kavanaugh’s a good man. It just may be that in my view he’s not the right man for the court at this time, ” she said.”
Although protests on Capitol Hill and in front of the Supreme Court were expected to continue ahead of Saturday’s vote, Democrats seemed to concede defeat, and after the long, bitter fight, reaction on both sides was relatively muted.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whom Kavanaugh famously tangled with when she asked whether he had ever blacked out from heavy drinking, spoke out to Ford from the Senate floor.
“This may not end up the way you want and may not feel worth it. There’s one reason it was worth it: The American people learned something.”
She said Ford had caused a “seismic change” in the country’s thinking about s****l assault, ending by quoting the title of a song by Bob Dylan, a fellow Minnesotan.
“The times they are a’changin,” she said.
The president, who had been roundly criticized for mocking Ford just days before, kept his immediate comments to a minimum, tweeting he was “very proud of the U.S. Senate.”
“Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting “YES” to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted, “Thank you @SenatorCollins for standing by your convictions and doing the right thing to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah on Saturday morning defended Trump’s apparent mocking of Ford, saying the president was pointing to “facts.”
“You can disagree with his tone, but can you disagree with the substance?” Shah told “Good Morning America.”
“And I think that the key here is that what he was pointing to are facts,” he continued, referring to Trump. “He was stating facts.”
Ford’s attorneys said their client has no regrets.
“I think she feels good about the fact that she came forward and did what she felt strongly was her civic duty to do — which is to provide the information she had to the Judiciary Committee so that they could make a better decision a more informed decision,” her attorney Lisa Banks told ABC News’ Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce.
Will she ever be able to live a normal life again? Bruce asked.
“She’s going to go back to teaching. She loves being a teacher. She’s very good at it,” attorney Debra Katz said. “And she’s looking forward to getting back to her family and her friends and her job. And we continue this fight, we continue to look for corroborating evidence against Judge Kavanaugh.”
EARLIER : Collins, Manchin Virtually Assure Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia both announced today that they will vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, virtually assuring his confirmation when the full Senate holds its final vote on Saturday.
It now appears that there will be 51 votes in favor of Kavanaugh, because Sen. Joe Manchin came out minutes after Susan Collins speech in favor of the nominee, the only Democrat to back Trump’s pick.
In a speech on the Senate floor that lasted more than 40 minutes, Collins, a Maine Republican, forcefully outlined her belief that Kavanaugh was well-qualified, that the Senate confirmation process “is not a trial” and that she “cannot abandon” the “presumption of innocence.”
“Outstanding!” was the reaction of one White House official.
Collins said that “fairness would dictate” that claims of s****l assault made against “should at least meet a threshold of ‘more likely than not'” but that the facts presented in the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford “lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the ‘more likely than not’ standard.”
“I do not believe these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from fairly serving on the court,” she said.
“It is when passions are most inflamed, when fairness is most in jeopardy,” Collins said. “I worry that departing from this presumption could lead to a lack of public faith in the judiciary and would be hugely damaging to the confirmation process moving forward.”
“I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” she added.
Only one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, is expected to vote against Kavanaugh.
A small handful of lawmakers — Collins, Manchin, Murkowski, and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. — had been considered potential swing votes on Kavanaugh up until Friday morning.
But Flake, who voted “yes” to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination in key procedural motion Friday morning, told reporters that he planned to vote to confirm Kavanaugh on Saturday unless something big changes.
Murkowski, however, voted against the procedural motion to move forward, later calling the cloture vote “a mistake.”
Later, she indicated that she would stick to her decision to vote “no” on Kavanaugh. She told reporters Friday that it was “truly the most difficult evaluation of a decision that I’ve ever had to make.”
“I have been wrestling with whether or not this was about the qualifications of a good man or is this bigger than the nominee. And I believe we are dealing with issues right now that are bigger than a nominee,” she said. “I believe that Brett Kavanaugh is a good man, I believe that he is a good man, it just may be that in my view, he’s not the right man for the court at this time.”
Republicans control 51 seats in the chamber, meaning they can’t afford to lose more than one vote, if all Democrats vote against Kavanaugh. With Murkowski a “no” and Flake a “yes” on Saturday on Saturday, that would mean they can’t afford to lose Collins — should Manchin joins all other Democrats in voting against Kavanaugh. But if Manchin, a red-state Democrat, joins Republicans in voting to confirm Kavanaugh, Republicans can afford to lose Collins.
In other words, for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be defeated, both Collins and Manchin would have to vote “no.”
EARLIER : Senate Advances Kavanaugh Confirmation To Final Vote
The key procedural vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court passed 51-49 on Friday morning.
In a dramatic midmorning vote, members of the Senate voted to move President Donald Trump’s embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh forward for a final vote. While the vote was not necessarily indicative of the final confirmation vote, it moved him one step closer to sitting on the highest court in the land and three out of four key undecided senators voted “yes” to advance the nomination.
Collins voted to end debate but isn’t expected to make an announcement on if she will vote to confirm him until 3 p.m., setting up a must-watch moment on the Senate floor.
Republicans hold a slim two-seat majority in the Senate, which allows them to lose one vote from their conference and still confirm Kavanaugh without Democratic help.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, a key vote, opted not to move the nominee forward. A group of s****l assault survivors, including a gathering of Native American women – a vital voting bloc in her district – had urged her not to move forward with Kavanaugh.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., also key senators in the confirmation process, opted to advance Kavanaugh for a final vote.
The confirmation vote will likely be held on Saturday.
President Trump welcomed the vote in a tweet, saying he was “very proud” of the Senate.
Republicans needed and netted a simple majority of 51 to invoke cloture and move forward with the final vote tomorrow.
A parade of lawmakers took to the floor to make their case for or against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Justice confirmation.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, declared that voting for Kavanaugh is “voting no to mob rule.”
“We should all admire Kavanaugh’s willingness to serve his country despite the way he’s been treated,” Grassley said.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declared: “President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court will go down as one of the saddest, most sordid chapters in the long history of the federal judiciary.”
Senators had one day to review a confidential supplemental background check into Kavanaugh’s behavior in the early- to mid-1980s when he was in high school and college. The closely guarded collection of interviews is celebrated by Republican leaders as concrete proof that Kavanaugh did not harass or abuse women. Democrats say the interviews, which they originally requested, are incomplete and inconclusive.
Flake forced Republicans to launch the additional investigation last week after a tense negotiation with Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats. Flake spent a large portion of the afternoon reviewing the FBI work and said he saw no new evidence to corroborate any of the claims against Kavanaugh, which Flake had previously indicated would mean he will vote to confirm.
Democrats saw something very different in the report. Several criticized Republicans for limiting the FBI investigation to just nine interviews. They said the process ignored many potential witnesses, including Ford.
The FBI also apparently did not interview Kavanaugh.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said those issues raised serious doubts about Kavanaugh and his qualifications.
“Judge Kavanaugh stated at his hearing that the individuals at the incident involving Dr. Ford refuted her version of events,” Schumer said Thursday. “From their own public statements, we knew that to be false, and nothing in this report changes that.”
Similar concerns moved Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to announce Thursday that she would oppose Kavanaugh. Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Democrats on the ballot in November and has seen her poll numbers slip in recent weeks. She’s running for re-election in a state president Trump won in 2016 by more than 35 points.
Heitkamp said she was troubled by Kavanaugh’s aggressive appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the message his confirmation would send to women and girls across the country.
“When considering a lifetime appointment to Supreme Court, we must evaluate the totality of the circumstances and record before us,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “In addition to the concerns about his past conduct, last Thursday’s hearing called into question Judge Kavanaugh’s current temperament, honesty, and impartiality.”
Her opposition leaves Manchin, as the only undecided Democrat on final passage. He is also in a tough re-election campaign and was silent on Kavanaugh in the days leading up to the vote.
The nomination now hangs on the decisions of Collins, Murkowski, Flake and Manchin. Sen. Flake has said he plans to vote in favor of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court.
Confirmation would hand Trump a clear victory and tip the balance on the court to a 5-4 majority in favor of conservatives in possible legal battles ahead over contentious issues such as abortion rights, immigration, and Trump’s attempt to ban transgender people from the U.S. military.
The Kavanaugh fight has riveted Americans just weeks before Nov. 6 elections in which Democrats are trying to take control of Congress from the Republicans.