WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on Saturday, ending a contentious confirmation process.
He was sworn in as an associate justice less than three hours after the vote.
The vote was 50-48, the closest for a Supreme Court justice in more than 150 years. Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the chamber, announced the vote at 4 p.m. ET.
Just after that, a woman yelled in the chamber, “This is a stain on American history” as authorities raced to escort her away.
The disruptions from protesters in the Senate chamber started just as the roll call began. Capitol Police dragged some of the demonstrators away. One woman screamed “I am a patriot” as she was carried out of the chamber. A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police said that 13 people were arrested for disrupting the chamber during and after the roll call vote.
Senators sat throughout the roll call, most silent, some Democrats visibly somber, a contrast to typical votes where colleagues typically mill about and chat with each other. Republicans began to congratulate each other as they waited for the final senator, Ben Cardin, Democrat from Maryland, arrive to cast his ballot.
The confirmation follows weeks of discord over Kavanaugh’s nomination after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh were made public.
Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the allegations on Sept. 27. After the testimony, the White House asked the FBI to launch an investigation into Ford’s allegations, which was completed in under a week. Democrats have said they feel the investigation wasn’t thorough enough and was designed not to find corroboration for Ford’s accusations.
Ford’s attorneys were in the Senate gallery for the vote.
Only a few senators’ votes were in contention, including Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who announced Friday that he would be voting yes unless something substantial changed. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was also a holdout, but eventually announced she would be voting yes as well, saying that Kavanaugh told her he believes that Roe v. Wade — a case particularly feared to be overturned if another conservative judge was confirmed — is “settled law.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted present because of the absence of a colleague, Steve Danies of Montana, who was at his daughter’s wedding, but said she would have voted no. That did not change the outcome of the vote.
Afterward, Murkowski, speaking to reporters, called for healing after the contentious process. She said that during the outbursts in the Senate chamber, she was “closing my eyes and praying. Praying for them. Praying for us. I’m praying for the country. We need prayers. We need healing. We just do.”
She later hugged a Capitol Hill police officer and thanked him and others for their work in what has been a two-week period of protests on the Capitol grounds.
Kavanaugh is the fifth solidly conservative judge on the Supreme Court. He fills a vacancy following the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, who has been a key swing vote on numerous decisions in recent years.
Outside, demonstrators staged protests in front of the Supreme Court. Capitol Police said that 150 were arrested as they crossed fencing surrounding the main Capitol building and sat in on the Rotunda steps on the east side of the Capitol.
A total of 164 people were arrested in Capitol protests on Saturday, and all were charged with crowding, obstructing or incommoding, Capitol police said.
Several more were arrested on the steps of the court after the vote, where demonstrators had gathered, chanting “Kavanaugh has got to go.” Police later cleared the steps around the same time that Kavanaugh was being sworn in inside the building.
Jessica Campbell-Swanson of Denver climbed to sit in the lap of the female Contemplation of Justice statue at the court, and waved her fist in the air as the demonstrators chanted. She later climbed down at the urging of police.
She said that she wasn’t concerned for her safety on the slippery marble.
“I’ve been climbing around in Denver. I knew it was going to happen sooner of later,” she told Variety.
President Trump sent a tweet after the vote.
“It certainly had a good impact for us. Our base is fired up. We finally discovered the one thing that would fire up the Republican base and we didn’t think of it, and the other side did it,” he said, nearly smiling. “The tactics that have been deployed by the Judiciary Committee, the Democratic senators and by the virtual mob that has assaulted all of us in the course of this process has turned our base on fire.”
McConnell also declined to say whether he would hold off on a Supreme Court confirmation should there be another vacancy during 2020, a presidential election year. After President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to succeed Antonin Scalia in 2016, McConnell refused to even hold a hearing on the choice, arguing that it was too close to the election.
“We’ll see what it looks like in 2020,” he said.
McConnell was asked how the Senate will heal after going through an extraordinarily divisive process.
“The Senate and the country will get past this. We always do,” he said.
Some entertainment industry groups quickly issued statements warning of his confirmation.
David Goodman, the president of the Writers Guild of America West, said that Kavanaugh’s confirmation is “a terrible day for working Americans and for the entire country.”
“Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated in cases ranging from worker safety to elections that he will unfailingly rule against workers and unions, denying their established right to bargain collectively,” he said in a statement. “Far from being an ‘umpire’ who favors no party or policy, Judge Kavanaugh showed the nation in his recent Senate testimony that he is vindictive and nakedly partisan.”