Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed by a 50-48 majority in the United States Senate, and will replace retired Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy on the United States Supreme Court. Kavanaugh, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was President Donald Trump’s (R) second Supreme Court nominee, following the nomination of now-Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch to replace Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Justice Kennedy announced his retirement in June, and Kavanaugh was nominated by Trump in early July. Kennedy was a moderate justice, often serving as a tiebreaker between the “conservative” and “liberal” wings of the court. Kavanaugh is generally viewed as a nonpartisan and pragmatic conservative jurist. He is a proponent of textualism, which is the judicial philosophy that the Constitution should be applied as written and not continually reinterpreted as a “living” document. Kavanaugh’s confirmation shifts the ideological balance of the court from essentially tied to a narrow conservative majority.
The U.S. Constitution charges the Senate with providing “advice and consent” on judicial nominations. Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation process turned unusually contentious after Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) publicized an accusation that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford at a party in the early 1980s. Feinstein released this information to the public six weeks after receiving it, apparently timing that release for maximum political effect. Ford later testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the alleged assault. Kavanaugh strongly denied the accusations, which remain uncorroborated by any of Ford’s named witnesses.
Following efforts in 2017 by Democratic senators to filibuster Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch, the Senate invoked the “nuclear option” and prohibited the filibuster of Supreme Court nominations, expanding a rule that already prohibited the filibuster of lower judicial nominees. Accordingly, Kavanaugh’s nomination moved quickly to a straight up-or-down vote after being brought before the full Senate.
Kavanaugh is likely to be sworn-in and begin performing his duties on the Supreme Court some time next week.