Brett Kavanaugh, the embattled U.S. Supreme Court nominee put forward by President Donald Trump, was poised to win Senate confirmation on Saturday, weathering sexual misconduct accusations and criticism of his character and temperament.
After weeks of intense debate that has gripped the nation, the conservative appeals court judge on Friday won vows of support from two centrist senators, leaving no clear path in the Senate for Kavanaugh’s opponents to block him.
A final confirmation vote was set for around 3:30 p.m. (1930 GMT) on Saturday.
Amid tighter-than-usual security, hundreds of protesters against Kavanaugh assembled on the grounds of the Capitol and at the Supreme Court. They chanted, “Vote them out! Vote them out!” and carried signs including “I am a survivor, not a troublemaker!”
A townhouse near the Washington residence of Republican Senator Susan Collins flew the flag of her home state Maine upside down to protest her backing of Kavanaugh.
As the day wore on, protesters in front of the Supreme Court pushed past security barriers and went to the east front of the U.S. Capitol where several dozen climbed exterior stairs, only to be removed by police.
If the Senate approves Kavanaugh as looks likely, Trump would score a clear win in his drive to cement conservative dominance of the high court, a bitter outcome for Democrats who could not get their own liberal nominee confirmed due to Republican delaying tactics in 2016.
With divisive cases on abortion rights, immigration, transgender rights and business regulation headed for the court, Kavanaugh likely would give conservatives the upper hand.
His confirmation would also allow Trump to hit the campaign trail ahead of the Nov. 6 congressional elections bragging that he has kept his 2016 promise to mold a more conservative American judiciary.
Capping a tense day on Friday, Collins of Maine declared on the Senate floor, “I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”
She praised his judicial record and argued there was no corroboration of a sexual assault accusation made against him by psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford. Two other women also accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct decades ago. Kavanaugh has denied all the allegations.
One of those women, Debbie Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale University in the 1980s, issued a statement on Saturday saying that as she watched the Senate debate, “I feel like I’m right back at Yale where half the room is laughing and looking the other way. Only this time, instead of drunk college kids, it is U.S. senators who are deliberately ignoring his behavior,” she said.
Moments after Collins pledged to back Kavanaugh, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who is in a tough race for re-election in West Virginia where Trump is popular, also declared his support, leaving little doubt of a Republican victory.
Senators then endured a rare all-night session to satisfy the requirement of 30 hours of debate following Friday’s vote.
As the debate entered its final hours, the divisions between Republicans and Democrats festered.
Republican Senator Deb Fischer described Kavanaugh as “one of the most thoughtful, preeminent judges in our nation.” The sexual assault allegations, Fischer said, led the Senate confirmation process into “a shameful spectacle and a disservice to everyone involved,” adding that there was no evidence Kavanaugh was the perpetrator.
Democratic Senator Edward Markey countered, saying Kavanaugh has been a “rubber stamp for a far right-wing agenda.” Referring to the judge’s sworn response to Ford’s testimony, Markey said, “We heard anger. We heard belligerence. We heard evasiveness. We heard disrespect.”
Senate Republicans, except for Lisa Murkowski, stood by Kavanaugh in a move that could resonate, particularly with women voters, in the midterm elections to determine control of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Even before the sexual assault charges surfaced, Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate were fighting hard to stop Kavanaugh, saying his conservative judicial philosophy could result in rolling back abortion rights, gay rights and protections for immigrants. They also challenged the veracity of some of his Judiciary Committee testimony.
© Thomson Reuters 2018
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