After months of partisan battles and a rancorous national conversation about sexual assault, the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh as the newest justice of the Supreme Court. There were no big surprises in the 50-48 vote Saturday afternoon that went largely along party lines, among the narrowest margins ever for a new justice to the nation’s highest court. In an illustration of the high stakes and raw emotions that have been riled up by the confirmation battle, the vote Saturday afternoon was frequently interrupted by protesters who yelled from the galleys. “I do not consent,” demonstrators shouted as the roll call began. When Sen. Jeff Flake cast his vote, one protester also made sure he heard their anger: “You’re a coward Flake, a total coward!”
As had been expected, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, were the only two who broke with their parties. Murowski in the end voted “present” instead of “no,” saying she was doing so as a nod to Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who was at his daughter’s wedding and would have voted “yes.”
Hundreds of protesters had gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court ahead of the vote and others chanted “No means no!” from the steps of the Capitol. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley praised the protesters ahead of the vote saying that his message to them would be, “thank god that you’re willing to exercise your First Amendment rights of association and free speech. Keep it up, because it’s going to make America stronger.”
Before the vote, 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.” But Democratic leader Chuck Schumer characterized the confirmation as “one of the saddest moments” in the history of the Senate and the country, saying Kavanaugh “doesn’t belong on the nation’s highest bench.” Schumer called on those angry at Kavanaugh’s confirmation to make their voices heard in November. “Change must come from where change in America always begins: the ballot box,” he said.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter Saturday to claim many of those who had gathered at the Capitol were there to support the soon-to-be justice and those opposing him were paid professionals. “Women for Kavanaugh, and many others who support this very good man, are gathering all over Capitol Hill,” he wrote. “It is a beautiful thing to see - and they are not paid professional protesters who are handed expensive signs. Big day for America!”
Trump later celebrated the confirmation. “I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court,” Trump wrote. “Later today, I will sign his Commission of Appointment, and he will be officially sworn in. Very exciting!”