It’s been a full year since Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court but the fallout from that day — and the acrimonious weeks preceding the vote — looms large over Washington.
Senators who voted for him are finding themselves in some of the toughest reelection campaigns of their careers. Activists, seeing a raft of anti-abortion laws weaving their way through the courts, worry how Kavanaugh’s presence will swing the Supreme Court’s view of Roe v. Wade.
Democrats, perhaps even more than before, fear losing a progressive justice on the bench before regaining control of the White House.
Planned Sunday protests, set to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Senate vote, show the anxiety and frustration around Kavanaugh’s confirmation are still alive as women once again urge lawmakers to listen and believe assault survivors on the heels of new reporting corroborating allegations of assault against Kavanaugh.
And a new Supreme Court session starts Monday, with at least one abortion case on the docket and the possibility that justices will also rule on gay rights and guns.
Kavanaugh remains a divisive figure largely because of the allegations of sexual assault leveled against him and memories of Christine Blasey Ford, a college professor from California, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, sharing details of the time she said Kavanaugh pinned her down and assaulted her at a high school party as he and a friend laughed.
After all, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, another Trump appointee, who took a seat Democrats accused the GOP of stealing from former President Barack Obama, was confirmed by an overwhelming majority with little controversy or backlash from the public at large.
But Kavanaugh’s influence on D.C. also goes beyond the “Me Too” movement.
The Supreme Court on Friday announced it would hear arguments about a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Critics say measures like this one are designed to limit access to abortion and activists fear the case could alter the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
It will be the first abortion case to reach the high court since Kavanaugh and Gorsuch joined the bench but it likely won’t be the last. A slew of states passed laws this year containing what amount to de facto bans on the procedure. Most have been blocked by the courts and are working their way through the appeals process.
Kavanaugh’s views on Roe v. Wade were, outside the allegations of sexual assault, the issue that most galvanized opponents who feared a conservative majority on the court could threaten the landmark ruling.
It’s an issue that Democrats have used to hit Rep. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a deciding vote in Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Collins, a moderate Republican who backs abortion rights, defended her vote in favor of Kavanaugh by saying the justice told her he believes Roe v. Wade is settled law.
Collins is now facing one of the most competitive races in her Senate career, with her most prominent Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, the leader of the state’s House of Representatives, attacking Collins on her Kavanaugh vote.
Gideon raised $1 million the first week after announcing her candidacy. The Cook Political Report rates the race as a toss-up.
While hoping the Kavanaugh issue could work to their advantage in Senate elections, many Democrats are also deeply fearful another seat may open up before the party takes back control of the White House. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has emerged as a cultural icon among Democrats and been deemed “the Great Dissenter,” is 86. She completed a three-week course of radiation therapy to treat a tumor on her pancreas this summer.
Ginsburg said she’s on her way to “being very well” in September at the National Book Festival in D.C.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings were a galvanizing moment for sexual assault survivors.
Last year’s Senate hearing came as the nation wrestled with the growing momentum of the “Me Too” movement. Women across industries and from diverse backgrounds shared stories of sexual harassment and assault, taking down powerful men in entertainment, media and politics — if not in court, then in public opinion.
Crowds of women protested on Capitol Hill as survivors of assault ridiculed lawmakers for ignoring women.
Kavanaugh denied Ford’s allegation. When two more women came forward with their own sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh during his time at Yale University, he again denied he’d done anything improper.
And just last month when The New York Times reported a classmate of Kavanaugh saw him harass another classmate, Kavanaugh denied the allegations and much of the Republican party, including President Trump, defended the justice.
The new allegation came from a former classmate of Kavanaugh named Max Stier who told the Times he saw the now-justice thrust his penis at a female classmate. The Times issued a clarification to note that the story was updated a day after it was published to confirm that the women Stier said Kavanaugh harassed declined to be interviewed for the story. Her friends told reporters she doesn’t recall the incident.
In addition to the new allegation, the Times reported at least seven people confirmed an allegation Deborah Ramirez made, at the time of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, that Kavanaugh thrust his penis at her at a college party. It undermined Kavanaugh’s dismissal of the allegation during his testimony when he said if it had happened it would have been “the talk of campus.”
Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed in a 50-48 vote, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joining all Republicans in voting for Kavanaugh. Sen. Lisa Murkowsi (R-Alaska) withdrew her vote, which she said would have been no, as a courtesy to Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) who would have voted yes but missed the vote for his daughter’s wedding.