Embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to a cheering conservative audience Friday.
“Don’t get rattled by all of this,” the Kentucky Republican told the Values Voter Summit conference in Washington. “We’re going to plow right through it and do our job.”
Kavanaugh is facing intense scrutiny over a decades-old sexual assault allegation. McConnell said, though, he would be confirmed “in the very near future.”
The contentious nomination fight, which took a turn Sunday when Christine Blasey Ford said that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party when they were both in high school, was on the minds of speakers and attendees at the annual Christian right conference.
Kavanaugh needs 51 Senate votes for confirmation. Republicans control 51 of the Senate’s 100 seats.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins derided the left for trying to “control the courts.”
Activist Gary Bauer said women “shouldn’t want a country where ... the man in your life can be ruined by someone getting up and saying ‘36 years ago, he did this to me.’”
Virginia school board member Elizabeth Schultz was worried about a message to boys “that you can be found to be guilty ... just because someone says you are.”
Conservatives felt reassured by McConnell, who called Kavanaugh a “stunningly successful individual.”
“He seemed confident and optimistic about (the nomination),” said George Primbs, a conservative activist from Woodbridge, Virginia. “I guess a lot of people were wondering what he might say.”
Primbs was not sure he accepts the allegations against Kavanaugh.
“Everyone’s innocent until proven guilty, so kind of skeptical about the charges,” he said.
McConnell seemed to know what would resonate with attendees of this conference, which prioritizes anti-abortion advocacy, religious liberty, small government and “traditional marriage.” Much of his speech, phrased as a “progress report” on congressional Republican accomplishments, focused on the need for conservative judges.
“If you want to have a longtime impact on what kind of country we’re going to have for the next generation, the single most consequential thing we can do is these lifetime appointments of men and women to the court who believe that the job of a judge is to follow the law,” McConnell said.
“The most consequential decision I’ve made in my entire career is the decision not to do something, and that was to not fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice (Antonin) Scalia,” said McConnell, drawing a standing ovation. “Well, it turns out that one of the most consequential decisions I ever made led to the appointment of Neil Gorsuch.”
President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat, but McConnell refused to even schedule a hearing. President Donald Trump then nominated Gorsuch.
McConnell has drawn ire from the right in the past over concerns he’s not conservative enough. Primbs mentioned a lack of progress on funding Trump’s proposed border wall, but McConnell’s embrace of Kavanaugh has bolstered his support.
“I was pleasantly surprised (by his speech),” Primbs said, pointing to McConnell’s emphasis on conservative judges. “He takes some parts of conservatism very seriously. Judges play a role in American society.”
Nicole Hudgens, a policy analyst for Texas Values in Austin, Texas, was encouraged that McConnell spoke. She praised “the leadership that the Senate’s taking on appointing Judge Kavanaugh and doing everything they can to make sure that he’s the next Supreme Court justice.”
Kavanaugh has avoided saying whether he would support overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that helped legalize abortion, but Republicans have acknowledged that he would give the court a conservative majority.
Anti-abortion advocacy is an area of interest to Hudgens, who supports religious freedom and opposes abortion. She thought Kavanaugh is well-qualified, and hopes he’s on the court if it decides to consider a Texas ban on a procedure used for second trimester abortions that was struck down by a federal judge.
“We need to make sure that (the procedure) isn’t implemented in Texas,” she said.