Capitol Report: Kavanaugh confirmed to Supreme Court after bitter partisan battle

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Reuters
Brett Kavanaugh is scheduled to be sworn in as a Supreme Court justice on Saturday, following his confirmation by the Senate in a rare weekend vote.

Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court by the Senate on Saturday, following a bitter partisan battle and allegations of sexual assault that President Donald Trump’s nominee angrily denied.

In a rare weekend session, a narrow majority of senators voted to confirm Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court. His confirmation was all but assured on Friday, after Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said they would back him. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the only Republican to voice opposition to Kavanaugh, voted “present” to offset the absence of Montana Republican Steve Daines, who is attending his daughter’s wedding. The final tally was 50-48-1.

Nominated by Trump in July, Kavanaugh later refuted accusations by college professor Christine Blasey Ford and two other women, in a high-stakes drama over sexual misconduct that has played out against the backdrop of the “#MeToo” movement and the November midterm elections.

While initially describing Ford as a “very credible witness” after her emotional testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Trump openly mocked her for what he said were gaps in her memory about the incident she alleged. Ford accused Kavanaugh of pulling her into a room at a high-school party in the 1980s, and trying to remove her clothes. Kavanaugh denied the allegations in testimony before the same panel, at times tearing up and hotly clashing with senators.

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Christine Blasey Ford, left, and Brett Kavanaugh

Kavanaugh will join fellow Trump pick Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, and is expected to give it a 5-4 conservative majority. Kavanaugh replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement in June. Kavanaugh once clerked for Kennedy, was an aide to Kenneth Starr during the investigation of President Bill Clinton, and most recently has served on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Trump said on Twitter that Kavanaugh would be sworn in later Saturday.

Democrats continued to protest the nomination in Senate floor speeches overnight, blasting a supplemental FBI investigation into Kavanaugh that they said was incomplete and charging that he disregarded impartiality while defending himself before the Judiciary Committee.

“This nominee was interviewing for a job in front of the American people, and he was belligerent, evasive and aggressive,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat.

Maine’s Collins, whose eleventh-hour declaration of support helped tip the balance for Kavanaugh, said Friday that Ford’s allegations against the judge were “compelling” and “sincere,” but were not likely to be accurate.

See: Susan Collins: Allegations against Kavanaugh didn’t meet ‘more likely than not’ standard.

Manchin, the only Democrat to back Kavanaugh, is facing re-election in a state Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016.

The heated battle over the Kavanaugh nomination is certain to reverberate across the Nov. 6 midterm elections. Polls have shown Republicans at risk of losing the House of Representatives, and support among GOP women dropped for Kavanaugh after the allegations were brought against him. Yet there were also signs of increased enthusiasm among Republicans as the fight wore on.

Murkowski called Kavanaugh a “good man” in a Friday speech, but said the judge’s “appearance of impropriety has become unavoidable.” She said her decision to vote “present” was a courtesy to fellow Republican Daines, in a move that let Kavanaugh be confirmed with a two-vote margin. That margin was one of the narrowest ever for a Supreme Court nominee, the Associated Press noted.