Even before Saturday’s Senate vote made Brett Kavanaugh a Supreme Court justice, senators from both parties said voters soon would deliver the final verdict on President Donald Trump’s divisive appointment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in an interview with Roll Call a month ahead of Election Day, said the contentious debate about the confirmation process was driving up base enthusiasm for the 2018 midterm elections.
“I think there’s no question that the tactics have energized our base like we were unable to do before this,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Not only the tactics of the Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, but then those who literally have our members under assault. I mean — they’ve come to our homes, they’ve, you know, basically brushed up against members.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, speaking on the floor right before the 50-48 vote, said the country needs to have a reckoning on Kavanaugh and the Senate process.
“Change must come where change in America always begins: the ballot box,” the New York Democrat said. “So to Americans, so many millions who are outraged by what happened here, there is one answer: vote.”
The political energy of Democrats was loudly on display in the Senate chamber as the vote got underway. Shouts of protesters disrupted the first few votes. After the ‘yes’ vote of Maine Republican Susan Collins who was a pivotal senator on the nomination, a protester yelled, “Shame on you, you’re a disgrace to this country.”
Watch: Highlights of Susan Collins' Speech Confirming Vote for Kavanaugh
Right before the clerk called for the vote of Sen. Jeff Flake, another key vote, a protester yelled, “You’re a coward, Flake. A total coward.” The Arizona Republican, who is retiring, voted for Kavanaugh.
After the vote for Kavanaugh by Sen. Joe Manchin III, the West Virginia Democrat up for re-election in a state Trump handily won in 2016, two protesters started chanting, “Shame, shame, shame.” Manchin turned his head to watch until Capitol Police escorted them from the chamber.
At one point, there were five protesters yelling at once, drawing a smirk from McConnell and a broad smile from South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had been one of Kavanaugh’s strongest defenders.
Graham smiled, he said afterward, because the protests didn’t work.
Watch: ‘Boo Yourself,’ 4 Pinocchios and Phones on the Floor: Congressional Hits and Misses
“You have every right to express yourself, but the way you do matters,” Graham said. “There are a lot of forces out there that if you bend to, it would be bad for the country. You can’t have a process where just yelling overcomes the facts.”
Republican senators grinned and shook hands about the confirmation before the official tally was announced. Many hugged or greeted Collins, who passed on running for Maine governor this year to remain in the Senate.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, often mentioned as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, took note.
“Now the people are going to have to decide,” the Minnesota Democrat said. “As I looked over at them, at all of them hanging out, practically celebrating, I thought, ‘Let’s see how you feel the day after the election.’”
Both parties say the confirmation fight will energize their voters. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Wednesday indicated that the battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination had helped Republicans close the enthusiasm gap with Democrats, who are energized by Trump’s surprise win in 2016.
Kavanaugh’s nomination boosted an already overheated role for Democratic female voters, particularly decadesold sexual assault allegations that fit into the #MeToo movement and the judge’s conservative legal approach that legal experts expect to chip away at access to abortion.
“This place is stuck in another era, and it’s time to get it to a place where the rest of America is,” Klobuchar said.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report