The U.S. Senate took its second-to-final step toward putting Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court, a move that would seal a 6-3 conservative high-court majority and cap a swift but bitterly partisan confirmation process.
The Senate, on a 51-48 tally on Sunday, advanced Barrett’s nomination toward a final vote to be held on Monday. Barrett was Donald Trump’s choice to replace the liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died of cancer on Sept. 18.
Sunday’s vote followed ultimately fruitless delaying tactics by Democratic opponents and demonstrated that Barrett, 48, has the backing she needs to be be seated on the court just a week before Election Day. Republicans have a 53-47 Senate majority.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking moments after the vote, called Barrett “a stellar nominee in every single respect.”
”Her intellectual brilliance is unquestioned. Her command of the law is remarkable. Her integrity is above reproach,” McConnell said.
Barrett, an appellate court judge who teaches at Notre Dame Law School and once clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, will extend Trump’s drive to reshape the federal judiciary and could give the Supreme Court a rightward tilt for decades.
Senate Democrats used hours of procedural delays and a Judiciary Committee boycott to protest a process they say unfolded with undue haste after Ginsburg’s Sept. 18 death, and even as early voting was under way in the presidential election. They say Barrett could change how the court might rule in areas including abortion, the Affordable Care Act, civil rights and lawsuits that could stem from the 2020 elections.
“The Senate has never confirmed a Supreme Court justice so close to the election,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote.
“Republicans are rushing to hold a confirmation vote tomorrow night, eight days before the election and after more than 50 million Americans have voted for president — quite possibly a different president — to pick justices on their behalf,” Schumer said. He accused Republicans of leveraging “raw political power.”
Senate Democrats and two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted Sunday against allowing Barrett’s nomination to speed ahead for Monday’s final vote. Both said earlier the vacancy should be filled by the next president, whether it’s Trump or Democrat Joe Biden.
Collins has also said she’ll vote against Barrett’s confirmation, but Murkowski announced Saturday she ultimately would support confirmation in Monday’s vote because Barrett, in her opinion, is qualified for the job.
“While I oppose the process that has led us to this point, I do not hold it against her,” Murkowski said in a floor speech on Saturday.
Vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris of California was campaigning in Michigan on Sunday and didn’t vote.
In testimony this month to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett said she would be her own judge, and declined to answer questions on how she might rule on issues ranging from abortion to voting rights to health care.
While saying she wasn’t calling for the court to be more aggressive in overturning its precedents, when given a chance she didn’t include cases involving access to abortion and contraception rights on her list of “super-precedents” that would be unthinkable to overturn.
Democrats spoke on the Senate floor, as they did in her confirmation hearing, about Barrett’s potential impact on the ACA, their central issue for the upcoming election. Barrett likely would be on the court when it hears arguments Nov. 10 in a case that could undo Obamacare, which provides health insurance for 20 million Americans. She’s criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for a 2012 majority opinion he wrote that upheld the core of the law.
”She’s sent plenty of signals in the past about how she feels about the ACA,” said Senator Dick Durbin on Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader and a senior Judiciary Committee member. He said Trump Republicans are “bound and determined” to abolish Obamacare, and that’s why they’re pushing so fast to confirm Barrett.
When pressed by Democrats, the nominee wouldn’t commit to recusing herself from cases related to the 2020 election that may come before the court. Trump said earlier he wanted Ginsburg’s replacement to help rule in his favor.
A devout Catholic and mother of seven, Barrett personally opposes abortion and once wrote that it is “always immoral.” But she testified she will set aside her personal views in her work as a judge.
Barrett’s nomination angered Democratic activists, who poured hundreds of millions into election campaigns in the wake of Ginsburg’s death.
Conservative non-profit groups had plans to spend about $30 million by month’s end advocating for Barrett’s confirmation, said people familiar with the activities. The money has financed a barrage of advertising and grass-roots activity — mostly in battleground states — that could have the side effect of energizing Trump’s voters and boosting GOP senators facing tight re-election races.
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