As expected, the U.S. Senate voted today to confirm a man the majority of Americans don't want on the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the high court with a 50-48 vote, the narrowest vote on a SCOTUS nominee since 1881, according to The Washington Post.
The vote — which fell across party lines, save for West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin voting for Kavanaugh and Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, who publicly opposed him, voting "present" — came after a reopening of the FBI background check of Kavanaugh due to sexual assault allegations against him. The investigators reportedly failed to interview many people who had offered information, but Republican Senate leaders and the White House pronounced it complete Thursday.
The first sexual assault allegation that surfaced against Kavanaugh was from Christine Blasey Ford, a research scientist who said he attempted to rape her at a party when they were both in high school. Blasey Ford testified about the incident before the Senate Judiciary Committee September 27, and Kavanaugh then took his turn to testify, with angry denials. He has said he thought there was a case of mistaken identity and that someone else committed the assault.
Other accusers of Kavanaugh, who were not called to testify, included Deborah Ramirez, who said he exposed himself to her and forced her to touch his genitals at a party when they were in college, and Julie Swetnick, who said Kavanaugh was present at parties during their high school years where girls were drugged and gang-raped, although she did not say he committed any of the assaults. A fourth accusation came from an anonymous source who said she witnessed a drunken Kavanaugh shove a woman against a wall in 1998, an act the witness described as sexually charged violence. Kavanaugh has denied all the accusations.
Senators are not allowed to discuss the contents of the FBI report publicly, but Democrats did complain about its limited scope. Sources told CNN that investigators failed to interview witnesses who could corroborate Ramirez’s account and that Swetnick’s accusation was deemed not credible by the White House staff and therefore not included in the investigation.
Before the FBI report, Kavanaugh appeared before the Senate and yelled, obfuscated, and lied about his drinking habits, according to many people who knew him and his own descriptions in his high school yearbook.
While the sexual assault allegations raised the stakes in the confirmation fight, Kavanaugh’s nomination met opposition from LGBTQ and other progressive groups from the time it was announced by Donald Trump July 9. As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit since 2006, he didn’t have a huge paper trail on LGBTQ issues, but he did have a strongly conservative record.
He sided with groups that sought religious exemptions from providing contraceptive coverage for employees, and he dissented from a ruling that allowed an undocumented teenage immigrant in federal custody to obtain an abortion. He tended to rule for employers over workers and oppose regulations on corporations. Also, as an aide in the George W. Bush White House, he reportedly took an expansive view of presidential power, and the Senate had access to only a selection of documents that laid out his record there.
“Judge Kavanaugh would guarantee 40 more years of Trump’s values on the Supreme Court,” Rachel B. Tiven, chief executive officer of Lambda Legal, said in a statement issued the night his nomination was announced. “Like every other judicial nominee who has a seal of approval from the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, Judge Kavanaugh shares Donald Trump’s same distorted view of the law. We have good reason to fear that Judge Kavanaugh will abuse his power on the Court to protect the wealthy and the powerful while depriving LGBT Americans of our dignity, demeaning our community, and diminishing our status as equal citizens.”
Then in his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he refused to directly answer Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris’s questions on whether he thought the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling was correctly decided and if he thought the days of discrimination against LGBTQ people are over. He also evaded the question from another Democrat, Cory Booker, on whether it’s wrong to fire a person solely for being gay. Harris further stumped him when trying to gauge his take on abortion rights, asking if he knew of any law restricting men’s health care choices. He could not come up with one.
Most Republicans, though, stood behind Kavanaugh, despite massive protests in the days leading up to the vote. “Judge Brett Kavanaugh is stunningly and totally qualified for this job,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.