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Narrow Senate Vote Confirms Kavanaugh To Supreme Court


Brett Kavanaugh is headed to the United States Supreme Court. This afternoon, the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh on a vote of 50-48, one of the closest margins ever. Minutes later, the White House announced that he would be sworn in during a private ceremony later today. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow was in the Senate for the final vote, and he's with us now from Capitol Hill.

Scott, welcome. Thanks for joining us.


MARTIN: So, first of all, set the scene for us for people who were not able to watch it.

DETROW: You know, these votes are one of the most formal moments that ever happen in the Senate. Senators sit at their desk and vote one by one while the vice president presides. So as that was happening, person after person in the gallery interrupted with visceral personal protests.



UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Shame. Shame. Shame. (Unintelligible).

PENCE: Clerk will suspend. The sergeant-at-arms will restore order in the gallery.

DETROW: So that's a woman yelling at Joe Manchin that she was an assault survivor, that he's putting his personal politics ahead of her experience. That happened over and over again. Another man yelled at Jeff Flake that he was a coward, and all 13 people were removed from the gallery during the vote. And I think that sums up this whole story in one scene - the Senate struggling with its formal responsibilities amid hyper-partisanship, an emotional set of circumstances and both parties retreating to their tribal bases.

MARTIN: This has all been so partisan and divisive. But, even accounting for the theatricality that people sometimes bring to politics, Scott, do you have a sense that this anger will linger in the Senate?

DETROW: I think so. Senators from both parties are incredibly angry for very different reasons. And just listen to some of today's concluding speeches. Mazie Hirono, Democrat from Hawaii, says this is another case of a woman being ignored.


MAZIE HIRONO: That's what I am left with, Mr. President - anger, fury, disgust at a process that could not see the truth of what Dr. Ford tried to tell us.

DETROW: And Republicans feel like this has been character assassination from day one. Here's John Cornyn.


JOHN CORNYN: I am disappointed more than I can say at those who have unleashed these unjustified attacks on the judge and his family and disappointed in their lack of any empathy or remorse for what they have put them through.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk about that for a minute. Let's talk about the Republican view for a minute, Scott, because many senators have said all along that they found Christine Blasey Ford sincere and credible, and yet they effectively discounted their testimony. Did they talk about that?

DETROW: They did. Republican after Republican was making that same argument, often in strikingly similar wording - almost the exact same phrasing - that Ford was sincere. That's a word that kept coming up. They said they believed that something happened to her, but either that they didn't believe that Brett Kavanaugh was the one who assaulted her or that they just didn't see any evidence backing Ford up on that claim. That was the final view from Susan Collins of Maine when she made that speech yesterday ensuring Kavanaugh would be appointed - confirmed to the court - that there were no corroborating accounts, more questions than not.

So, in the end, we have the same result as 1991 when Anita Hill testified about Clarence Thomas. A woman comes forward with allegations, and the man she accused ends up on the Supreme Court.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk about it sort of more broadly for the minute or so that we have left. If you were anywhere near the Capitol, if you were watching or listening, you could hear those raucous protests - mainly from people opposing Kavanaugh, but we also saw some people wearing, you know, President Trump's signature, you know, MAGA hats. Is there a sense about whether these protests are going to have any lasting impact on the careers of the people that you cover on the Hill?

DETROW: I think so. We just saw President Trump say that Lisa Murkowski is never going to recover from being the only Republican opposing Kavanaugh's nomination. There are a lot of big picture questions, and I don't know when we're going to know the answers to them. Just some of them - what does this do to the Senate? How it works, how it operates normally, it's a collegial environment. Now it's more partisan than ever.

What does this do to the Supreme Court? Lisa Murkowski pointed out that this is the one institution of government that people still basically trust. How does this change that? And what does this do for elections in a month? We've seen evidence that it made Republicans more energized. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, said he urged people who are angry about this to go vote. So the main question, the most immediate question, is, which side's anger lasts a month and shows up and is evident on Election Day?

MARTIN: That is NPR's Scott Detrow.

Scott, thank you so much.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.