WASHINGTON, DC – Brett Kavanaugh became the 114th justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday, when the Senate confirmed him by a vote of 50-48, handing President Trump and Republicans a historic victory that shifts the balance of power on the Court.
The vote came in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday, less than 30 hours after the Senate invoked cloture late Friday morning to end an attempted filibuster by Senate Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Senators invoked cloture by a vote of of 51-49, thanks to the “nuclear option” first engineered by Democrats under former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2013, lowering the threshold from 60 to 51 for presidential nominations.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) was in his home state during the final vote, walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. Daines was willing to take a private jet immediately back to Washington if necessary to cast the deciding vote, but Murkowski – the only Republican to oppose Kavanaugh – agreed to vote “Present” instead of “No” on the final vote, to neutralize the effect of Daines’ absence and keep the two-vote margin for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
President Trump sees appointing conservative Supreme Court justices as one of the reasons he was elected. Polling showed that in the 2016 election, 48 percent of voters said the Supreme Court was a major factor in their presidential vote, and 21 percent of voters said it was their top issue. Those voters chose Trump over Hillary Clinton by a margin of 57 to 41.
Saturday’s confirmation marks more than the dramatic conclusion to a political battle that has waged for more than three months, and instead could mark an inflection point in a philosophical war that has raged for decades.
The Supreme Court has not had a conservative majority since 1934, when the New Deal took hold and the Court moved to the left, giving the federal government vast new powers over economic issues. The Court massive broadened federal powers over commerce, taxing, and federal spending.
A conservative majority on the Court has been considered within striking distance since 1993, when two moderate justices were the swing votes on almost every issue that divided along philosophical lines. In 2006, conservative Justice Samuel Alito replaced one of those moderates, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
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