WASHINGTON, DC - As they promised to do on Friday, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) voted 'yes' to elevate Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s second nominee, to the Supreme Court. Saturday afternoon’s 50-48 vote marks Kavanaugh’s final hurdle before taking the position, swinging the court toward a conservative bench.
The vote followed endless hours of floor speeches following the Senate’s cloture vote. The traditional cloture effectively ends debate, and in this case, a weeklong FBI investigation into sexual misconduct allegations and possible false statements made by Kavanaugh.
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) broke away from her party, stating that Kavanaugh is “not the right man for the court at this time."
Since September, the allegations have rocked Kavanaugh's confirmation process, creating an even more partisan environment within the Senate Judicial Committee. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the committee days ago that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school. Saturday’s vote followed hours of speeches from the Senate floor. Democrats decried Kavanaugh’s intemperate tone and aggressive wording in statements and responses to the committee following Ford’s testimony.
Talk, Talk, Talk...
The unfolding saga of how Ford’s heart-rending accusations came to light is a curious one. Weeks ago, Ford wrote a letter telling of the alleged sexual assault which landed on the desk of Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA). It was kept guarded until recently when it was published in the media. Feinstein has been accused of leaking the letter, which her office adamantly denies, as do the journalists who first wrote about it.
The story threatens to deepen and cause even more division in the court of public opinion and within Congress just weeks before a midterm election. Who the leaker may be, and their motivation has gone in a few directions. It could have been Feinstein who wanted to torpedo Kavanaugh's nomination - she adamantly denies it. It could have been someone who wanted to smear Feinstein or wanted to smear Kavanaugh or wanted to embarrass Ford.
However, it is important to consider what many are talking about: how the court itself will handle this issue when Kavanagh dons his robes.
On the Inside
For a peek at what may unfold within the court we can look back to 1991 when Justice Clarence Thomas barely made his way out of contentious hearings where sexual harassment allegations from Anita Hill surfaced and made their way into his confirmation hearing from which he emerged victoriously.
It also divided the country, but 27 years later, according to Thomas, it did not split the court.
“After going through all those difficulties, the members of the court were just wonderful people to a person. So the court itself is quite different from the ordeal. It's almost the opposite of the ordeal it took to get there,” he said in remarks at the Library of Congress.
On the Outside
Is it really about the court’s reputation or is it about which reputation that partisans would like to curate? Of this chaos, a spark of hope emerged that perhaps the nation can hang its hat on. By most fair-minded standards Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) did a significant thing by voting “present” so that Sen. Steve Daines' (R-MT) ‘yes’ vote would count, allowing him to stay home to attend his daughter’s wedding.
It may mean nothing for the future of non-partisan efforts, but it represents what most Americans are after - getting on with an inevitable outcome and moving forward with business. This is hopefully what our Supreme Court has in mind.