BREAKING NEWS: Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 50-48 vote at 3:30 PM Eastern Time.
The vote, coming down party lines but for two exceptions, comes on the tail of a bruising confirmation process that saw a slew of false charges of sexual harassment thrown against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
The vote saw only two Senators breaking with their party. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, voted to confirm while every other member of his party voted no.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski refrained from voting, registering herself only as “present.”
Murkowski noted that she was not gong to vote for Kavanaugh, but when fellow Republican Steve Daines (Montana) noted that he intended to skip the vote and attend his daughter’s wedding back home, Mukowski decided to vote “present” so that she would not hurt the party or vacate Daines’ vote which would have been a “yes” on Kavanaugh.
With a bare minimum majority, the Republican Party needed every single vote it could muster to get Kavanaugh confirmed. So, in the end, Murkowski at least found a way not to hurt her party.
All eyes had turned to Senators Jeff Flake (Arizona) and Susan Collins (Maine) who had been rumored as “no” votes also breaking from their party. But on Friday, both Senators announced that they would stick with their party and vote “yes” to confirm.
Saturday’s confirmation marks more than the dramatic conclusion to a political battle that has waged for more than three months, and instead could mark an inflection point in a philosophical war that has raged for decades.
The Supreme Court has not had a conservative majority since 1934, when the New Deal took hold and the Court moved to the left, giving the federal government vast new powers over economic issues. The Court massive broadened federal powers over commerce, taxing, and federal spending.
A conservative majority on the Court has been considered within striking distance since 1993, when two moderate justices were the swing votes on almost every issue that divided along philosophical lines. In 2006, conservative Justice Samuel Alito replaced one of those moderates, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Since then, the Supreme Court has long been divided with four conservative justices to one degree or another, and four liberal justices on the other. The crucial fifth vote was the sole remaining moderate, Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The United States is entering into new territory that will reshape our courts, our legal system, and our politics for decades to come.
And it is extremely possible that Donald Trump could get one or even two more Supreme Court picks before his days in the White House are over.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.