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US Senate leader hails Kavanaugh vote as 'proudest moment'

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday hailed the confirmation of divisive Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as his "proudest moment" in the upper house as the warring Republicans and Democrats turned their focus to the crucial midterm elections.

Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court Saturday by a razor-thin margin in the Senate, ending months of partisan rancor over his nomination and offering Donald Trump one of the biggest victories of his presidency.

"I'm proud of my colleagues, this is an important day for the United States Senate," McConnell told political talkshow "Fox News Sunday."

Asked if it was his proudest moment since entering the Senate in 1984, the 76-year-old replied: "I think so," adding that the most important appointments reviewed by the Senate are "the lifetime appointments to the court."

Kavanaugh was sworn in shortly after the Senate voted 50-48 in his favor -- a move that cemented the high court's shift to the right under the Republican president, who has chosen two of the nine sitting justices.

Reflecting the depth of Democratic anger, Senator Richard Blumenthal tweeted that the Republicans had confirmed "a dangerous & deeply flawed nominee only by breaking all the rules & norms. The damage done today will be enduring."

Protesters rallied in Washington and other US cities against the ascent of the 53-year-old jurist, who has faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and been criticized for his angry partisan rhetoric.

The prolonged nomination battle has roiled American politics, disrupting the status quo on Capitol Hill and firing up both Republicans and opposition Democrats a month before the midterms.

"The mob descended on Capitol Hill and tried to intimidate our members into opposing this good man's nomination. We stood up to the mob," McConnell said.

Trump told a raucous rally in Kansas late Saturday that the confirmation marked "a tremendous victory for our nation, our people and our beloved Constitution."

- Kavanaugh 'on the ballot' -

But the bitter confirmation fight appears to have deepened the fissures in Congress as lawmakers and their supporters head out on the campaign trail.

For now, many pollsters predict Democrats will regain control of the House of Representatives in November, while Republicans are touted to hold on to the Senate.

But how reaction to the Kavanaugh affair will ultimately play out remains to be seen.

Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, said that Kavanaugh would be sitting on the court "with a huge taint after his name. The partisanship he showed was astounding."

Both sides claimed that the brutal political battle over Kavanaugh had galvanized their supporters.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland noted that several key issues framing the November 6 vote could all come before a Supreme Court pitched to the right by Kavanaugh's presence.

Among those concerns are women's reproductive rights, the Mueller investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election and Republican attempts to roll back the Obamacare health program.

"Those issues are going to be on the ballot in the midterm, and Judge Kavanaugh underscores those issues," Cardin told Fox.

- 'Mob rule lost' -

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he had never been so disturbed as by the events of recent weeks.

"I'm glad that those who try to overturn the rule of law and replace it with mob rule lost," he told "Fox News Sunday."

He added: "I've never campaigned against a colleague in my life. That's about to change" -- suggesting he would hit the campaign trail against Democrats who opposed Kavanaugh in states where Trump did well in 2016.

Trump said Saturday that the lone Republican to oppose Kavanaugh's confirmation, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, would "never recover from this."

"I think the people from Alaska will never forgive her," he told the Washington Post.

But McConnell told CBS's "Face the Nation" that Murkowski, who isn't up for re-election until 2022, remained "a Republican member of our conference in good standing."

On ABC's "This Week," Hirono was pressed on whether she might support potential future Democratic efforts to impeach Kavanaugh.

She demurred, but then added: "I'm focused like a laser beam on the elections," predicting angry voters would "go to the polls and vote differently."

Americans of both parties appear bruised and battered by the drawn-out Kavanaugh drama.

"A pox on both houses for the way this was conducted," Ohio Governor John Kasich, a moderate Republican, told CNN's "State of the Union."

"Sometimes you can have a short-term win, and (in) the long term you have to wonder about the soul of our country."
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