Supreme Court swings right

A bitterly divided U.S. Senate voted to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination in a near party-line vote of 50-48, delivering a triumph to President Donald Trump that could put the right-wing in control of the nation’s judiciary for a generation.

Kavanaugh will replace the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was often a swing vote on cases related to such questions as abortion, campaign finance and same-sex marriage. The Senate vote gave Trump his second Supreme Court appointee, tilting the nine–member panel further to the right.

After a battle that exposed the country’s cultural, gender and political divides, a near party-line vote ended an acrimonious fight that escallated after Dr. Christine Blasey For  said that an inebriated high school-aged Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a 1982 party.

Kavanaugh emphatically denied allegations that  three decades ago, he had sexually assaulted Ford  and wo other women who came forward. Those claims magnified the battle from a struggle over judicial ideology into an angrier and more complex jumble of questions about victims’ rights, the presumption of innocence and personal attacks on nominees.

The roll call occurred exactly a month before elections in which House and Senate control are in play, Democrats hope that infuriated women and liberals will turn out to the polls in force to oust Republicans.

Rep. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only Democrat to vote for the 53-year-old conservative judge, while all but one Republican backed Kavanaugh.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the only member of the Republican Conference opposed to elevating the current D.C. Circuit Court judge to the high court, voted “present” to offset the absence of Republican Sen. Steve Daines, who is in Montana to attend to 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.

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

Since then, the country watched agape at electric moments. These included the emergence of two other accusers; an unforgettable Senate Judiciary 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.”

“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 repeatedly battled 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 that 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.

 

 

 


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