Culture

Kavanaugh Confirmation: A Divisive Day In Washington Hints At Clashes To Come

Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination is confirmed after a procedural vote in the Senate revealed a crucial swing vote. Our New York contributor Angela Ledgerwood reveals the sentiment in Washington and the speech that fuelled women's rage.

By Angela Ledgerwood

Culture

Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination is confirmed after a procedural vote in the Senate revealed a crucial swing vote. Our New York contributor Angela Ledgerwood reveals the sentiment in Washington and the speech that fuelled women's rage.

By Angela Ledgerwood

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Saturday, with senators voting 50-48, one of the slimmest margins in American history. Kavanaugh was sworn in quietly, as his fate was sealed the day before. On Friday morning in Washington D.C., Kavanaugh secured a crucial swing vote in Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. The Senate chamber voted 51 to 49 in a procedural vote, forwarding his nomination on to the final Senate vote on Saturday – the same day a nation protested against his nomination.

At 3 p.m. on Friday, politicians and citizens stood still, gripped by Republican Senator Susan Collins’ speech to the Senate explaining and defending her choice to vote “yes” to confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Collins said Kavanaugh is entitled to “presumption of innocence” of assault. Focusing on his judicial record, Collins said that she too was concerned about upholding access to birth control and abortion rights, both issues Republicans have sought to dismantle. On Row v. Wade she said, “Protecting this right is important to me.” Collins also stated that while she found Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony sincere, she was not convinced of Kavanaugh’s guilt. As no one in the FBI inquiry came forward to corroborate Dr. Ford’s claims, Collins was satisfied supporting Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In what appeared somewhat contradictory, she said: “We must listen to survivors… the #MeToo movement is real, it matters, it is needed, and it is long overdue.” 

Her decision unleashed a tidal wave of anger from women and men across the country who oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. Senator Collins wasn’t the only senator to show her hand. Two senators that crossed party lines earlier on Friday morning were Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III of West-Virginia. Republican Senator Murkowski voted against moving forward with Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. “I believe we’re dealing with issues right now that are bigger than the nominee, and how we ensure fairness and how our legislative and judicial branch can continue to be respected,” said Murkowski, who is not up for re-election until 2022. “This is what I have been wrestling with, and so I made the – took the – very difficult vote that I did,” she said. “I believe Brett Kavanaugh’s a good man. It just may be that in my view he’s not the right man for the court at this time.”

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III of West-Virginia bucked the Democratic majority with a yes to confirm Kavanaugh. Mr. Manchin is seeking re-election in a state with a majority of Trump voters so he stuck with his vote despite the outcry from his party. Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who called for the FBI investigation this time last week, voted yes.

It’s been a dramatic and fraught week in US politics in the lead up to Kavanaugh’s final nomination vote. On Tuesday, at a Republican rally in Mississippi, President Trump mocked and imitated Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony after previously saying she seemed credible. “How did you get home?” Trump said, acting-out a question the committee asked Ford. “I don’t remember,” he then parroted. “How did you get there? ‘I don’t remember.’ Where is the place? ‘I don’t remember.’ How many years ago was it? ‘I don’t know.’ What neighborhood was it? ‘I don’t know.’ Where’s the house? ‘I don’t know.’”

On Thursday the FBI released its report on the allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. Although 10 people were contacted in relation to the investigation only 9 were interviewed and Democrats have called the investigation a farce designed to make it easier for the undecided senators to justify their yes vote.

The report was not made available to the public and senators had to take turns reading the single document in the basement room of the Capitol building. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who covers Congress for The New York Times said on The Daily podcast Friday morning that reporters like herself were running down the halls of the Capitol building asking Senators who had just seen the 46-page report what they thought of it. She described the tense atmosphere in Washington with Senators being escorted by police, and protestors at the airport waiting as senators return to Washington. Thousands of coat hangers—a symbol of the return of backstreet abortions should Roe v. Wade fall—have been sent to senator’s offices. Sit-ins at the senator’s offices have resulted in arrests. “We’re back where we were a week ago, but people are just angrier,” said Stolberg.

On Thursday protestors descended on Washington for “the cancel Kavanaugh” rally. Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski were among those arrested and detained. In New York protestors gathered outside of the Federal Court House. Late on Thursday night Judge Kavanaugh published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal titled: “I Am an Independent, Impartial Judge” admitting he had regrets about his testimony: “I said a few things I should not have said.”

Despite Kavanaugh’s own misgiving about his testimony, the Senate deemed him fit for the position. The country just became even more politicized and polarized, just in time for the midterm elections.