US Senate leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday (Oct 7) 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 (Oct 6) 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 he first entered the Senate in 1984, the 76-year-old replied: “I think so. I think the most important thing the Senate is involved in is the personnel business.
“Of the various 1,200 appointments who come to us for confirmation, obviously the most important are the lifetime appointments to the courts and we prioritise handling President Trump’s outstanding nominees for the Supreme Court.”
Kavanaugh was sworn in shortly after the Senate voted 50-48 in his favour a move that cemented the high court’s shift to the right under the Republican leader, who has chosen two of the nine sitting justices.
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, rejecting the notion that the process had “broken” the Senate.
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.”
But the bitter fight over Kavanaugh’s confirmation appears to have deepened the fissures separating Congress as lawmakers and their supporters prepare to head out on the campaign trail.
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 mobilized and 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.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he had never been so disturbed than 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… This is character assassination,” he told Fox.
He added: “I’ve never campaigned against a colleague in my life. That’s about to change.” On ABC’s This Week, Hirono was pressed on whether she might support potential future Democratic efforts to impeach Kavanaugh.