WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate on Saturday confirmed D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, bringing to a close a nomination that once seemed in peril after multiple women accused the judge of sexual misconduct.
The final vote was 50-48. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, voted “present,” Sen. Steven Daines, R-Mont, did not vote as he was attending his daughter’s wedding.
Ahead of the vote, President Donald Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a rally in Topeka, Kansas, that he thinks Kavanaugh is “going to be a great Supreme Court justice for many years to come.”
“I think he’s going to make us all very proud,” the president continued. “I also feel very strongly that, in the end, the process, it was really unattractive, but the extra week was something that I think was really good.”
“A lot of very positive things happened in the last week,” Trump said. “It didn’t look that way, but in the end that’s what happened. It’s a very exciting time.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meanwhile hailed Saturday’s confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as a major boost to Senate Republican candidates in next month’s midterm elections.
McConnell said the fight over the nominee over what he called a “shameless smear campaign” by Senate Democrats, has revved up the GOP base in several key states.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation became apparent on Friday, when key senators cast votes and made statements indicating how they planned to vote in the decisive Saturday showdown. With Republican Senators Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, voting yes along with Democrat Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh 51-49 on Saturday afternoon.
A veteran of the Bush White House, Kavanaugh spent the last 12 years as a judge on the D.C. Circuit, where he earned a reputation as a staunch conservative with a particular expertise and focus on administrative law and the separation of powers.
After Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy in July, Kavanaugh’s confirmation appeared all but guaranteed given his glittering resume, conservative credentials and the Republican majority in the Senate.
That perception did not change after Kavanaugh answered questions across two marathon days in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in early September, with Democrats’ primary criticisms of the nomination focused on documents from his time in the George W. Bush administration that remained secret.
But everything changed when Christine Blasey Ford came forward in mid-September accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school. Ford said Kavanaugh forced her into a bedroom, pinned her down and attempted to remove her clothes at a party in 1982, an allegation Kavanaugh repeatedly denied.
Shortly after came the allegation of Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed his genitals to her without her consent at a party in a Yale dorm.
The allegations consumed Kavanaugh’s nomination and the Senate Judiciary Committee and lawyers for Ford eventually negotiated a hearing where both Ford and Kavanaugh could answer questions from senators.
In emotional testimony, Ford detailed her memories of the night and told senators she was “100 percent” sure Kavanaugh was the one who assaulted her.
Kavanaugh delivered a fiery rebuke of both Ford’s claims and committee Democrats’ handling of the allegations, accusing them of strategically deploying the allegations to sink his nomination when they were unable to land any hits based on his judicial philosophy.
After the hearing, Democrats continued calls for an FBI investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations, while Republicans insisted the Senate should move forward on a vote, saying Ford had not provided enough additional information to corroborate her claims.
Flake appeared to give Kavanaugh’s nomination a boost when he announced before a Sept. 28 committee meeting that he would be voting to report the judge favorably to the full Senate. However, when it came time to vote, Flake announced he would only do so on the condition that the FBI conduct a probe into the allegations.
Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, backed up Flake’s call and the White House quickly ordered an investigation into the allegations that was to last no more than a week.
The agency delivered the results of the investigation on Thursday, and senators filtered in and out of a secure room in the Capitol throughout the day to review the documents, which remain secret.
Republicans said the probe did not turn up any evidence to corroborate Ford’s allegations, but Democrats disagreed and said the investigation was improperly limited.
All told, the FBI interviewed 10 witnesses with “firsthand knowledge” of the allegations against Kavanaugh, including the three people Ford said were at the party where she was allegedly assaulted, according to the Judiciary Committee.
After Friday’s procedural vote, Flake, Collins and Manchin announced they would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, bringing to an end days of suspense over whether any of the publicly undecided senators would break from expectations and sink the nomination.
Kavanaugh will now take Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court, becoming the second Trump appointee on the high court after Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom the Senate confirmed last year.