The US Senate has voted to confirm judge Brett Kavanaugh to the supreme court, handing Donald Trump a major victory and America a bench expected to tilt to the right for the next generation.
The vote was almost a foregone conclusion after the dominant Republican party secured majority support during a procedural vote on Friday amid crackling tension, furious protests and high drama on Capitol Hill.
But the final vote was still a monumental development in a sharply divided America. It came down to stark political loyalties in the face of multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh from his past, which brought up current questions about his honesty, temperament and partisanship during testimony.
Kavanaugh has strongly denied all allegations of such misconduct. Votes fell almost entirely along party lines and the nomination passed narrowly, 50-48, one of the closest votes in the history of the court. The vote was interrupted at least four times by protesters in the gallery.
Donald Trump flashed two thumbs up aboard Air Force One on his way to a rally in Kansas on Saturday night. At the supreme court, where protesters continued to chant on the court steps, Kavanaugh was poised to be sworn in by chief justice John Roberts and the retired judge he is replacing, Anthony Kennedy, later Saturday night. He is expected to take his seat on the bench on Tuesday.
The vice-president, Mike Pence, who was presiding over the Senate vote, repeatedly banged his gavel down and called out: “The sergeant at arms will restore order in the gallery”. Protesters screamed out “I am a patriot” and “shame, shame”, delaying the vote for a few minutes.