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Senate Confirms Kavanaugh as New Supreme Court Justice

(Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

WASHINGTON — Brett Kavanaugh will replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court as the Senate confirmed the D.C. appellate judge to a lifetime appointment, with both sides lamenting the bitter process that led up to today’s vote.

The tally was 50-48 in a seated roll call vote, with Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) absent to attend his daughter’s wedding and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) initially voting “no” and, at the end, voting “present” as a courtesy to her friend Daines. Vice President Mike Pence presided over the vote, with heated protests breaking out in the gallery as the roll call began.

Murkowski said on the floor Friday that her decision had been “agonizing” but “in my conscience — because that’s how I have to vote at the end of the day, with my conscience — I could not conclude that he is the right person for the court at this time.”

“I hope and I pray that we don’t find ourselves in this situation again. But I’m worried. I am really worried that this becomes the new normal, where we find new and even more creative ways to tear one another down. That good people are just going to say, ‘Forget it. It’s not worth it,’” Murkowski added. “I’m looking at some of the comments that are being made, the statements that are being made against me, against my good friend, my dear friend from Maine. The hateful, the aggressive, the truly, truly awful manner which with so many are acting now is got to end. This is not who we are. This is not who we should be. This is not who we raise our children to be.”

Potential swing votes Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) had announced Friday that they would support Kavanaugh, with Manchin saying he had “reservations about this vote given the serious accusations against Judge Kavanaugh and the temperament he displayed in the hearing” and Collins declaring in a lengthy floor speech that she felt adequately confident Kavanaugh would uphold abortion rights, same-sex marriage, access to contraception, and Affordable Care Act coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Collins has since revealed that former President George W. Bush called her three times to lobby on Kavanaugh’s behalf. Kavanaugh’s wife formerly served as Bush’s secretary.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) called the Kavanaugh controversy a “cruel, reckless and indecent episode.”

“We should send a message loud and clear that the United States Senate will not be intimidated,” he said.

He was interrupted multiple times by protesters shouting from the gallery. Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) stated afterward on the floor that “if you believe in freedom of speech … then you accept some tough consequences.” He added that “violence is never acceptable,” and said the “hottest ring in hell is reserved for those” who threaten or go after lawmakers’ children and families.

“Leave my family alone,” he added.

Durbin gave a message to Christine Blasey Ford: “You gave new meaning to the term civic duty … I’m sorry that you were mocked by President Trump at his rally last Tuesday.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called the campaign against Kavanaugh and sexual assault allegations “beyond the pale — even beyond Judge Thomas and Anita Hill and I was there.”

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the floor that “the road that has led us here has been bitter, angry and partisan… one of the saddest moments in the history of the Senate.”

“Judge Kavanaugh doesn’t belong on the bench because he has repeatedly misled the Senate… because he is an extreme partisan,” Schumer added.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wrapped up debate calling Kavanaugh a judicial “superstar” and “among the very best our country has to offer.”

McConnell said a vote for Kavanaugh would “end this brief, dark chapter in the Senate’s history and turn the page toward a brighter tomorrow.”

A month ago, the American Bar Association explained to the Judiciary Committee their decision to rate him “well qualified” for appointment. On Friday, the ABA sent a letter to the committee declaring a reopened evaluation of Kavanaugh.

“New information of a material nature regarding temperament during the September 27th hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee has prompted a reopening of the Standing Committee’s evaluation,” chair Paul T. Moxley wrote to Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “The committee does not expect to complete a process and re-vote prior to the scheduled Senate vote. Our original report must be read in conjunction with the foregoing. Our original rating stands.”