The Republican-led US Senate has voted to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, just about a week before Election Day and 30 days after she was nominated by President Trump to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday, October 26th.
With the confirmation of Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, Republicans have solidified the conservative majority on the court as it is set to consider several high-profile cases in the coming months, and forcing Democrats to conseider expanding the number of Justices on the Court to counter the conservative majority.
Barrett was confirmed by a vote of 52-48 on Monday evening, after Democrats exhausted the procedural maneuvers undertaken to delay her confirmation. Only one Republican, Senator Susan Collins, voted against confirming Barrett to the Supreme Court. All the Democrats voted against her, including red state Senators Doug Jones of Alabama, who is up for reelection this year, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
Barrett’s confirmation has left Democrats concerned about the fate of the nation’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act, and Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision allowing women to have access to abortions. The court will be hearing a case on the constitutionality of the ACA’s individual mandate in November. Barrett could also end up weighing in on a general election-related case involving the man who nominated her, should the results of the race between President Trump and Joe Biden come before the Supreme Court.
The only Republicans who voted against the cloture motion on Sunday were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. On Saturday, Murkowski previewed her intentions, saying she planned to vote against moving the nomination forward procedurally but would vote to confirm Barrett on Monday. “While I oppose the process that led us to this point, I do not hold it against her, as an individual who has navigated the gauntlet with grace, skill and humility,” she said. Collins faces a tough reelection battle and said after Ginsburg’s death in September that whoever wins the presidential election should fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
While Senate Democrats tried to slow down the confirmation process of Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee with various procedural maneuvers, the fact that Republicans control the Senate has always meant a Barrett confirmation was all but promised.
“The Senate is doing the right thing. We’re moving this nomination forward, and, colleagues, by tomorrow night we’ll have a new member of the United States Supreme Court,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Sunday.
Democrats railed against the advancement of Barrett’s nomination so close to Election Day, after the Republican-led Senate in 2016 refused to hold hearings for then-President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, nearly eight months before that year’s election.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., labeled the nomination process a “cynical power grab.”
“Nearly every Republican in this chamber led by the majority leader four years ago refused to even consider the Supreme Court nomination of a Democratic president on the grounds … that we should wait until after the presidential election because the American people deserved a voice in the selection of their next justice,” he said on Sunday.
“My colleagues, there is no escaping this glaring hypocrisy. As I said before, no tit-for-tat convoluted, distorted version of history will wipe away the stain that will exist forever with this Republican majority and with this Republican leader.”
Barrett’s nomination cleared a procedural hurdle Sunday afternoon when the Senate voted to end debate on the nomination, days after Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee boycotted a vote to advance Barrett’s nomination.
The 48-year-old judge’s confirmation solidifies the court’s conservative majority, potentially shaping the future of abortion rights and health care law for generations.
During a campaign event in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday, Vice President Pence said he wanted to return to Capitol Hill in time for Monday’s vote. “As vice president, I’m president of the Senate,” Pence said. “And I’m gonna be in the chair because I wouldn’t miss that vote for the world.”
He ultimately did not attend the vote in person. His presence would have been purely symbolic anyway, as it was not expected that Pence would have needed to cast a tie-breaking vote. Democrats had pushed back against Pence’s plan in light of recent positive coronavirus tests of two top staffers in Pence’s orbit, and they had similar concerns about Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., two of whose staffers have tested positive for the coronavirus. Loeffler’s spokesperson on Saturday said the senator had tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday.
Immediately following her confirmation, the White House held an event to celebrate, this time, with attendees spread out and mostly masked, unlike the event to celebrate Barrett’s nomination. Justice Clarence Thomas administered the constitutional oath to Barrett, with President Trump standing in between Thomas and Barrett.
“I am grateful for the confidence you have expressed in me, and I pledge to you and to the American people that I will discharge my duties to the very best of my ability,” Barrett said after she was sworn in.