NBC News has confirmed The Senate on Saturday afternoon narrowly confirmed Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice, 50-48.
As the roll call began, a series of protesters in the gallery began yelling “I do not consent!” and “shame on you” as Vice President Mike Pence — who was presiding over the session — called for order. Several women could be heard quietly sobbing and sniffling. Some dabbed tears.
The interruptions capped off two weeks of protest against the nomination that swept Capitol Hill ahead of the final vote, exactly a month before Election Day.
Kavanaugh’s July nomination to the high court by President Donald Trump was followed by nearly three months of controversy, including a pair of confirmation hearings that consumed Washington — one that examined his judicial thinking, and the other in which the nominee denied allegations involving sexual misconduct by several different women.
Before the vote Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it was time for the chamber to put the rancor behind it. “A vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh today is a vote to end this brief, dark chapter in the Senate’s history and turn the page toward a brighter tomorrow,” he said in remarks on the Senate floor.
President Trump said ahead of the vote that things had worked out for the best. “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,” he told reporters.
The president was at 30,000 feet, heading to Kansas for a campaign rally Saturday night, while the vote took place. He told reporters he would be watching it on his way.
On Friday afternoon it became clear that Kavanaugh had secured the necessary votes for a successful confirmation. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who had been one of a handful of officially undecided senators, revealed in a lengthy floor speech that she planned to vote in favor of his nomination. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also previously undecided, quickly issued a statement afterward saying that he plans to vote to confirm the nominee.
Collins praised Kavanaugh’s judicial record and approach and said, while discussing the sexual misconduct allegations facing him, that the “presumption of innocence and fairness do bear on my thinking and I cannot abandon them.”
“In evaluating any given claim of misconduct, we will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence, tempting it may be,” she said. “I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court.”
Manchin then said in a statement that while he has “reservations” about his vote, he believes Kavanaugh “to be a qualified jurist who will follow the Constitution and determine cases based on the legal findings before him.” Manchin is expected to be the only Democrat to vote for Kavanaugh.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who announced on Friday that she opposes Kavanaugh’s nomination, has said she will ask to be recorded as “present” as a courtesy to Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who supports Kavanaugh and will be walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding on Saturday while the vote is expected to take place.
“I will, in the final tally, be asked to be recorded as present, and I do this because a friend, a colleague of ours is in Montana this evening and tomorrow at just about the same hour that we’re going to be voting, he’s going to be walking his daughter down the aisle and he won’t be present to vote, and so I have extended this as a courtesy to my friend,” she said in a floor speech.
Kavanaugh, who has served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for 12 years, essentially delivered his closing argument in an op-ed article published Thursday night, saying that he might have been “too emotional” in his congressional testimony last week.
“I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times,” he wrote in an article headlined, “I am an Independent, Impartial Judge,” published by The Wall Street Journal.
The article was published the same day the FBI made available to senators a report on its speedy investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. Republicans said Thursday the report had vindicated him, while Democrats blasted it as incomplete.
The investigation looked into the allegation by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a gathering of teenagers when they were in high school in the early 1980s. She described her account of the incident in testimony last week before the Senate.
“I believed he was going to rape me,” Ford said about Kavanaugh. “It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark [Judge] were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, and at times telling him to stop.”
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations and said that his reputation and his family have been “permanently destroyed by vicious an false additional accusations.”
The allegations first became public in mid-September, shortly after Kavanaugh testified at a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. At the time, he called the 1973 Supreme Court landmark case Roe v. Wade settled law, saying that it “has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years” and that the most prominent and most important case was Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.
Democrats and liberal activists had expressed concerns that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade on the Supreme Court, and raised questions about his views on the limits of a president’s power to influence investigations of his own conduct. In his testimony, Kavanaugh said he could not answer questions about whether a president could pardon himself or whether a sitting president can be required to respond to a subpoena.
Throughout the confirmation fight, Trump had largely stuck by Kavanaugh, who is his second nominee to be confirmed to the high court. Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed to the Supreme Court last year after the Senate changed its rules so that a nominee could be confirmed to the high court with a simple majority.