In a 50-48 split nearly along party lines, Senators confirmed Brett Kavanaugh (53) to the Supreme Court in a vote Saturday afternoon. Saturday’s confirmation followed a 51-49 procedural vote on Friday to advance the confirmation to a final vote.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) broke ranks with her party by voting against Kavanaugh. However, for Saturday’s vote, she was marked as “present” rather than “no” as part of an arrangement she made with Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who would have voted “yes” but was attending his daughter’s wedding. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) also broke with his party by voting to confirm Kavanaugh.
Two other swing votes included Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who were both previously undecided. After reading the results of an FBI investigation, which Flake said would be necessary to cinch his vote for Kavanaugh, the two voted “yes.” Collins gave a 45-minute speech in front of the Senate explaining her decision to vote as she did, though she knew that voting either “yay” or “nay” for Kavanaugh would alienate half of her supporters.
Following Senate testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school, the FBI announced it would open an investigation into the sexual assault allegations that primarily Ford and another woman Deborah Ramirez have levied against Kavanaugh. The FBI contacted 11 witnesses and interviewed 10, though they did not interview Kavanaugh or Ford, citing their Senate testimony as sufficient.
Republican Senators stated that the investigation did not corroborate the allegations against Kavanaugh, while Democratic Senators believed the investigation too limited in scope to effectively evaluate the claims. Some also raised questions regarding Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the bench as an unbiased judge after he claimed that Democrats were attempting to desecrate his reputation. Kavanaugh answered this with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he asserted he would remain nonpartisan, despite his passionate response to the allegations against him.
“I believe that an independent and impartial judiciary is essential to our constitutional republic,” Kavanaugh wrote. “If confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Supreme Court, I will keep an open mind in every case and always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law.”
Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Sunday to make the FBI investigation records public.
“To preserve the full record of this dark chapter, I am filing a Freedom of Information Act request so the public can see the FBI report, transcripts of interviews, instructions from the White House and any communications to the FBI from Senate Republicans regarding the scope of the investigation,” Pelosi wrote.
With a 5-4 conservative majority cemented on the court, Chief Justice John Roberts, also a conservative, must decide how to keep his court above the partisan fray. Some predict Roberts may lean left in upcoming cases in order to appease those who believe the court has become another extension of the political arm, a conservative one at that.
Kavanaugh was sworn in on Saturday in a private ceremony and again on Monday night in a ceremonial ceremony held in the White House.