The Senate Republicans overwhelmed the Democratic opposition and confirmed Amy Coney Barrett in the Supreme Court with 52-48 votes along the lines of party politics. With this they secured the candidate of President Donald Trump and a likely conservative court majority for the coming years a week before the presidential election.
Trump’s decision to fill the post of late-liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg may open a new era of decisions about abortion, the affordable care law, and even a possible dispute over his own choice. Democrats were unable to stem Monday’s result, Trump’s third justice on trial, as Republicans raced to reshape the judiciary.
Barrett is 48 years old and her confirmation will cement the court’s lean to the right.
Monday’s vote is the closest Supreme Court confirmation to a presidential election and the first in modern times without the support of the minority party. The escalating COVID-19 crisis has survived the procedure. Vice President Mike Pence’s office said Monday he would not chair the Senate session unless his tie was required after the Democrats asked him to stay away when his aides tested positive for COVID-19.
After Barrett’s confirmation was as good as certain, Trump should celebrate with a swearing-in ceremony in the White House late that evening after the vote. Justice Clarence Thomas should take the constitutional oath, a senior White House official said.
“This is something to be really proud of and feel good about,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said during a rare weekend meeting the Sunday before the vote. He scoffed at the “apocalyptic” warnings from critics that the judiciary was entangled in partisan politics, stating that “there is nowhere near much they can do about it”.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held his Senate Republican caucus together to get Barrett’s nomination before the election [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]Pence’s presence as chairman of the vote would have been expected, which shows the priority of the Republicans. However, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and his executive team said that not only would it violate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s virus guidelines, but it would also violate common decency and courtesy.
Some Republican senators tested positive for the coronavirus after a rose garden event with Trump to announce Barrett’s nomination last month. However, they have since stated that their doctors have released them from quarantine. Pence’s office said the vice president tested negative for the virus on Monday.
The Democrats argued for weeks that the voting was wrongly accelerated and insisted that during a nightly session it should be left to the November 3 election winner to nominate the candidate. However, Barrett, a federal appeals judge from Indiana, is expected to quickly take a seat and begin hearing cases.
When Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, spoke around midnight, she called the vote “out of wedlock” and “the last gasp of a desperate party.”
Just a week before the election, several pre-election matters are waiting to be decided, and Barrett could be a casting vote on Republican appeals to orders extending postal voting deadlines in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
The judges are also weighing Trump’s urgent appeal to the court to prevent the Manhattan District Attorney from getting his tax returns. And on Nov. 10, the court is expected to hear the Trump-backed challenge to the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.
“Not Amy’s Law”
Trump has said he wants to quickly set up a ninth judiciary to resolve electoral disputes and hopes the judges will end the health bill known as “Obamacare”.
During several days of testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett was careful not to disclose how she would rule on cases pending in the Supreme Court [File: Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP Pool]In her confirmation hearings before the US Senate, Barrett presented herself as a neutral arbitrator and suggested, “It’s not Amy’s law.” But her anti-abortion writings and a verdict on “Obamacare” show a deeply conservative thinker.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican Justice Committee chairman, praised the mother of seven as a role model – “a conservative woman who recognizes her beliefs.”
Republicans focused on their Catholic religion and revitalized earlier democratic questions about their beliefs. Graham said Barrett was “intrepid for life, but she will not apply Amy’s law to any of us.”
At the start of Trump’s presidency, McConnell implemented a change in Senate rules to allow approval by a majority of 100 Senators, rather than the 60-vote threshold traditionally required to alert candidates to high courts of objections. It was an escalation of a rule change introduced by the Democrats to advance other candidates for courts and administration under President Barack Obama.
Republicans are taking a political leap by pushing for confirmation days from the November 3rd election, with the presidency and its Senate majority at stake.
Only one Republican, Senator Susan Collins, who is in a tight re-election campaign in Maine, is expected to vote against the candidate, not through a direct assessment of Barrett. Rather, Collins said, “I don’t think it’s fair or consistent to get Senate confirmation before the election.”
Senator Susan Collins was the only Republican to vote against Barrett. She faces tough re-election campaigns in Maine [File: Alex Edelman/Pool via AP]Trump and his Republican allies had hoped for an election spurt, similar to how Trump caused excitement among Conservatives and Evangelical Christians in 2016 over a vacancy in court. That year, McConnell refused to allow the Senate to ponder then-President Barack Obama’s decision to replace the late Judge Antonin Scalia, arguing that the new president should decide.
Most of the other Republicans facing tough races accepted the candidate in order to strengthen their standing with the Conservatives. Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican standing for re-election in North Carolina, said in a speech Monday that Barrett would “go down in history as one of the great judges.”
However, it is not clear that the extraordinary efforts to install the new justice over such opposition in a heated election year will bring political rewards for the Republican Party.
The demonstrations for and against the candidate in the Capitol were more restrained under the restrictions of the coronavirus.
Democrats are united against Barrett. While two senators voted for Barrett’s endorsement in 2017 after Trump nominated the Notre Dame Law School professor, this is not yet expected.
California Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, is expected to return to Washington from campaigning to join her non-voting counterparts.
According to the Senate Historical Bureau, no other Supreme Court justice has been affirmed in a recorded vote without the support of the minority party in at least 150 years.