PHOENIX — Retired U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl said Wednesday that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings should teach senators that they have to take special effort in the future to avoid making such hearings appear too political and too rowdy.
For the last four months, Kyl filled the Arizona seat held by the late Sen. John McCain. Kyl had been helping guide Kavanaugh's nomination in the Senate when McCain died in August. Gov. Doug Ducey appointed Kyl to fill the seat in September when the contentious Kavanaugh confirmation hearings were underway.
"Hopefully, the lessons learned are that no one can win with that kind of overly political demonstration, and I suspect that next time, senators will bend over backward to try to avoid the kind of scene that was put on during those hearings," Kyl said at a news conference Wednesday, two days after his resignation took effect.
Kavanaugh was nominated to take retired Justice Anthony Kennedy's seat and confirmed amid intense protests across the nation over allegations he sexually assaulted a woman decades ago. Kavanaugh denied any wrongdoing.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a widely viewed hearing where the woman testified about her allegations.
Kyl said the confirmation didn't give the public encouragement in how the Senate does its business, though he maintains it ended as it should with Kavanaugh taking a seat on the nation's highest court. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a vote of 50-48, the smallest margin in 137 years.
He also lauded Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican who infuriated the left with her vote to confirm Kavanaugh, for explaining her support for the nominee during a speech.
Kyl, who had previously served three terms in the Senate before retiring in 2012, also reflected on the challenges of politicians working in a divided government, saying the rancor has worsened in the five years since he first retired from the Senate.
"Yes, there have always been differences — we have two political parties, and there are going to be differences," Kyl said. "But today there seems to be an estrangement — an inability to work with each other, almost an unwillingness to try — that wasn't that evident when I left five years ago."
Kyl had committed to fill the former McCain seat until the end of 2018.
Ducey has appointed U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican who lost the 2018 Senate race in Arizona, to the seat. She will be sworn in Thursday.