US Senate leader hails Kavanaugh vote as 'proudest moment'

AFP , Sunday 7 Oct 2018

Mitch McConnell
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to reporters after the U.S. Senate confirmed the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

US Senate leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday hailed the confirmation of divisive judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as his "proudest moment" in the upper house as the warring Republicans and Democrats turned their focus to the crucial midterm elections.

Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court Saturday by a razor-thin margin in the Senate, ending months of partisan rancor over his nomination and offering Donald Trump one of the biggest victories of his presidency.

"I'm proud of my colleagues, this is an important day for the United States Senate," McConnell told political magazine show "Fox News Sunday."

Asked if it was his proudest moment since entering the Senate in 1984, the 76-year-old replied: "I think so," adding that the most important appointments reviewed by the Senate are "the lifetime appointments to the court."

Kavanaugh was sworn in shortly after the Senate voted 50-48 in his favor -- a move that cemented the high court's shift to the right under the Republican president, who has chosen two of the nine sitting justices.

Reflecting the depth of Democratic anger, Senator Richard Blumenthal tweeted Saturday that the Republicans had confirmed "a dangerous & deeply flawed nominee only by breaking all the rules & norms. The damage done today will be enduring."

Protesters rallied in Washington and other US cities against the ascent of the 53-year-old jurist, who has faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and been criticized for his angry partisan rhetoric.

The prolonged nomination battle has roiled American politics, disrupting the status quo on Capitol Hill and firing up both Republicans and opposition Democrats a month before the midterms.

"The mob descended on Capitol Hill and tried to intimidate our members into opposing this good man's nomination. We stood up to the mob," McConnell said.

Trump told a raucous rally in Kansas late Saturday that the confirmation marked "a tremendous victory for our nation, our people and our beloved Constitution."

- Kavanaugh 'on the ballot' -
But the bitter confirmation fight appears to have deepened the fissures in Congress as lawmakers and their supporters prepare to head out on the campaign trail.

"A pox on both houses for the way this was conducted," Ohio Governor John Kasich, a moderate Republican, said on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "Sometimes you can have a short-term win, and (in) the long term you have to wonder about the soul of our country."

For now, many pollsters predict Democrats will regain control of the House of Representatives in November, while Republicans are touted to hold on to the Senate.

But how reaction to the Kavanaugh affair will ultimately play out remains to be seen.

Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, said Sunday that Kavanaugh would be sitting on the court "with a huge taint after his name. The partisanship he showed was astounding."

Both sides claimed that the brutal political battle over Kavanaugh had galvanized their supporters.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland noted that several key issues framing the November 6 election -- women's reproductive rights, the Mueller investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election and Republican attempts to roll back the Obamacare health program -- could all come before a Supreme Court pitched to the right by Kavanaugh's presence.

"Those issues are going to be on the ballot in the midterm, and Judge Kavanaugh underscores those issues," Cardin told Fox.

- 'Mob rule lost' -
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he had never been so disturbed as by the events of recent weeks.

"I'm glad that those who try to overturn the rule of law and replace it with mob rule lost," he told Fox.

He added: "I've never campaigned against a colleague in my life. That's about to change" -- suggesting he would campaign against Democrats who opposed Kavanaugh in states where Trump did well in 2016.

On ABC's "This Week," Hirono was pressed on whether she might support potential future Democratic efforts to impeach Kavanaugh.

She demurred, but then added: "I'm focused like a laser beam on the elections. All these angry people know that these people sitting in the Senate are making these decisions.

"They're going to go to the polls and vote differently."

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