Brett Kavanaugh has been sworn in as justice on the top court after weeks of controversy. The court now leans 5-4 towards conservatives, ushering in concerns about abortion rights and gun control.
Controversial US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh took the oaths of office on Saturday afternoon just hours after the Senate voted to confirm him.
Senators approved his ascension to the nation's highest court by a vote of 50-48, almost completely along party lines. One Republican, Steve Daines of Montana, did not vote because he was not present for family reasons. The two-vote margin made it the closest confirmation vote since 1881.
US President Donald Trump praised the Senate on Twitter for approving "our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court. Later today, I will sign his Commission of Appointment, and he will be officially sworn in. Very exciting!"
He also told reporters that Kavanaugh — who has been accused of sexual misconduct — had a "squeaky clean past" and had been confirmed despite a "horrible attack by the Democrats."
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the sole Democrat to back Kavanaugh, while Alaska's Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, was the only Republican to oppose him. She voted "present," balancing out Daines' absence.
Vice President Mike Pence had to call the room to order after protesters broke in at the start of the vote, shouting "shame on you."
Earlier in the day, a large crowd gathered on Capitol Hill shouting "Vote them out!" A few demonstrators were led away by officers after trying to break through a police barrier.
Allegations of sexual misconduct
Kavanaugh's confirmation process was marred by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, notably by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who gave tearful testimony before the Senate of how Kavanaugh had drunkenly held her down and covered her mouth to prevent her from screaming at a high school party in 1982.
Several others came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of lewd acts. Many of his Yale Law School classmates also spoke with the press about their dismay at what they perceived as his lying under oath about his binge drinking and inappropriate behavior.
Last Friday, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, asked for an FBI investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct after assault survivors confronted him in the Capitol Building.
Trump ordered the probe, but later complained that Senate Democrats were just trying to waste time.
FBI investigation criticized
After less than a week of investigation, the FBI presented its 1,000-page document, in which Republicans said it told them "nothing new" about the allegations, and did not corroborate Ford's story.
Democrats argued about the way the document was delivered. A single copy was made available, in a single room at one-hour allotments.
They also took issue with the short nature of the investigation and the small number of people who were interviewed. Notably, neither Ford nor Kavanaugh spoke with the Bureau for the probe.
With Kavanaugh taking a seat on the bench, the court is now majority conservative. Activists have voiced concern about what his appointment could mean for abortion rights, immigration and gun control.
es/jm (AP, Reuters)