A deeply divided Senate voted on Saturday to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, delivering a victory to President Trump and ending a rancorous Washington battle that began as a debate over ideology and jurisprudence and concluded with questions of sexual misconduct.
The vote, almost entirely along party lines, was 50 to 48, with Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — the lone Republican to break with her party — voting “present” instead of “no” to accommodate a colleague who could not attend and would have voted “yes.” Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia was the lone Democrat to support Judge Kavanaugh.
The final result was expected; all senators had announced their intentions by Friday, after the nomination cleared a crucial procedural hurdle in a 51-to-49 vote.
But while the brawl over Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation may be over, people on both sides of the debate agree that it will have lasting ramifications on the Senate, the Supreme Court and the nation.
As the senators entered their final hours of debate on Saturday, hundreds of Kavanaugh opponents were massed on the steps of the Supreme Court. They later rushed the barricades around the Capitol and sat on its steps, chanting “No means no!” as Capitol Police officers began arresting them. Women and sexual assault survivors around the country were furious, feeling as though their voices had not been heard.
Inside the chamber, protests erupted as Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, delivered a speech deploring “mob rule” — a reference to the activists and sexual assault survivors who have roamed the Capitol in recent weeks, confronting Republican senators. “I stand with survivors!” one shouted. “This process is corrupt!”
Even some of Judge Kavanaugh’s future colleagues sounded unsettled. On Friday, on the eve of the vote, two of them — Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — expressed concern that the partisan rancor around his nomination would injure the court’s reputation.
“Part of the court’s strength and part of the court’s legitimacy depends on people not seeing the court in the way that people see the rest of the governing structures of this country now,” Justice Kagan said in an appearance at Princeton University. “In other words, people thinking of the court as not politically divided in the same way, as not an extension of politics, but instead somehow above the fray, even if not always in every case.”
Once confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh will shift the ideological balance of the court to the right, giving it a solid conservative majority. He will replace the retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a moderate conservative who was its longtime swing vote, and at 53 he is young enough to serve for decades, shaping American jurisprudence for a generation, if not more.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, was unequivocal about what Republicans had accomplished.
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SOURCE: New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg