After one of the most “bruising and divisive political battles in recent memory”, the US Senate has confirmed Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court by a margin of 50 to 48, says Josh Glancy in the Times. In the end, neither high-profile accusations of past sexual misconduct nor the daily demonstrations against him “made a difference”. Confirmation of the 53-year-old, who could remain in office for decades, represents the fulfilment of a “long-cherished Republican dream… to remake the Supreme Court in a conservative mould”.
It does, says Adam Liptak in the New York Times. The new majority – five conservatives to four liberals – is likely to shift the law to the right on “countless deeply contested issues from abortion to gun rights”. The justices insist that they “apply neutral legal principles without regard to politics” but this has been undermined. Kavanaugh’s own testimony was “laced with fiery attacks on Democrats”. The court is also in growing danger of being seen as partisan. The conservative justices were all appointed by Republican presidents, the liberals by Democrats.
Trump didn’t help by apologising to Kavanaugh and his family for their “pain and suffering”, says Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post. The “uphill climb” to earn voters’ trust was evident in the results of a CNN poll in which 51% opposed his confirmation, while 52% believed his accusers and think he lied about his past alcohol use.
“An even greater conflagration may be coming,” says Charlie Savage in the New York Times. Liberals are talking of ways to “eventually undo” the conservative bloc’s power without waiting for a member to retire or die – there has even been talk of trying to impeach Kavanaugh. This would be an “extraordinary violation of constitutional and political norms” and is unlikely, but the pressure may “make some of the conservative justices more cautious” on future rulings.