On Saturday, October 6, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, after weeks of concerns surrounding sexual assault accusations made by three women: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnik. Now, because the Constitution grants lifetime appointments to Supreme Court members, Justice Kavanaugh is expected to be interpreting legal controversies and constitutional issues for three or four decades. Here, Election Central takes a look at the events leading up to Saturday’s decision, as well as the nation’s response.
On September 28, the FBI began an investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh. This investigation did not include discussions with Ford, Kavanaugh, or with any of the people Ford listed as witnesses to her assault. This caused many Democratic senators to view the FBI investigation–which was begun at the request of Republican Senator Jeff Flake–as an artificial process. When the report was completed on October 4, only one copy was made available. Republican and Democratic senators took turns viewing the hundred-page document in a special classified chamber.
Last Saturday, October 6, the Senate held its final vote on Kavanaugh. Because Republicans hold a 51-49 lead in the Senate, two Republicans would have to have voted against Kavanaugh to halt his confirmation. Democrats hoped that Republican Susan Collins of Maine would be one of those critical votes. However, in a long and much-criticized speech, she announced her decision to vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. This left Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to be the only Republican to oppose the confirmation. Sealing the deal was Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat who voted in favor of Kavanaugh.
According to recent polling in the immediate aftermath of these tense weeks of Kavanaugh’s hearings, the number of Americans who opposed Kavanaugh’s appointment rose from 39 percent in September to 51 percent in the last few days. Among women, the dislike is even higher: 53 percent of women asked opposed Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice.
Interestingly, while 52 percent of Americans say they believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Kavanaugh is true, 50 percent say that whether or not Kavanuagh is actually guilty of sexual assault, his demeanor during the hearing process makes him unfit to serve.
Unlike his predecessor, Justice Kennedy, who served as a swing vote on many legal issues before the Court, Justice Kavanaugh is expected to rule with his more conservative benchmates on issues such as legal abortion, marriage equality, and the Affordable Care Act. Furthermore, the long and complicated and divisive confirmation process has led some critics to ask if lifetime appointments for Supreme Court justices remain appropriate in this day and age. Supporters of Kavanaugh respond that this is sour grapes from the losing side. More significantly, many women–especially survivors of sexual assault, rape, and sexual harassment–do not feel acknowledged or legally protected now and possibly for the future.