Democracy on Trial: Senate Moves forward with Kavanaugh Confirmation

Ethan Bachand ’22

News Editor

After weeks of deliberation and questions regarding his character, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday, September 29. However, the 11-10 vote did not come easily, as Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) conditioned that his yes vote be accompanied by an FBI investigation.

Kavanaugh, the former White House secretary and current U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge for the District of Columbia, was nominated by President Donald Trump back in July in order to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. What was expected to be a smooth nomination quickly became difficult, as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward with an allegation that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were minors.

The allegations were not immediately made public, but once the story was published it became a significant roadblock for Kavanaugh’s confirmation, as Dr. Ford was called upon to testify. Weeks of speculation over whether she would appear or not culminated in her making the trip out from California to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee the day before the committee took their vote.

Tension in the room was palpable, as both Democrats and Republicans took clear stances on Dr. Ford’s allegations. On multiple occasions throughout the hearing, shots were taken across the aisle in an attempt to gain momentum for one’s party heading into the midterm elections. Accusations were made by Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that Democrats had leaked Dr. Ford’s private letter, which originally was given to her congressional representative.

Judge Kavanaugh testified afterwards, defending his character and denying the allegations with intensity. Criticizing the way the committee has handled the situation Kavanaugh said, as quoted by the Associated Press, “this confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.”

On Friday morning, the Democrats’ chances of overturning the Republican majority looked slim. Voting procedure was put into place with an 11-10 vote, followed by constant movement by senators in and out of the senate chamber. Although the vote was scheduled for 1:30 P.M. EST, it took place approximately 30 minutes later, as senators on the left side of the aisle lobbied Flake to change his vote.

The final result seemed to split down the aisle, in what can be deemed at least a small victory for both sides. Although the recommendation to the full senate was officially approved by the Judiciary Committee, Senator Flake spoke prior to the vote. The senator from Arizona voiced his concern of the allegation, conditioning his yes vote with an official investigation by the FBI.

While the Republicans on the committee were successful in pushing through the President’s nomination, Democrats received the FBI investigation many had hoped for. Dr. Ford herself had called for the Bureau to conduct an investigation prior to her appearance in front of the committee.

The political rhetoric continued after the vote, as both parties gear up for one of the most important Novembers in recent memory. Speaking about Kavanaugh’s nomination, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “So we have learned that, if you confide in Senate Democrats on a highly sensitive personal matter, no request for confidentiality will keep you from becoming a household name. And if you’re a nominee whose judicial philosophy Senate Democrats deem to be objectionable, no centuries-old standard of presumed innocence will protect your name, your family, or your reputation from irreparable damage.”

On the other side of the aisle, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) condemned the words of Kavanaugh, saying “This ‘lock her up’ grace note in Judge Kavanaugh’s remarks may have raised a cheer in the White House, but it was a sad moment in the history of this committee.”

With the midterm elections closing in, the results of both the investigation and Kavanaugh’s nomination will have a significant impact on who gains control of Congress this fall. Yet what remains to be seen is which way the wind will blow.

Photo courtesy of the BBC.

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