Senate Confirms Barrett 10/27 06:28
Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court late Monday by a deeply
divided Senate, with Republicans overpowering Democrats to install President
Donald Trump's nominee days before the election and secure a likely
conservative court majority for years to come.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court late
Monday by a deeply divided Senate, with Republicans overpowering Democrats to
install President Donald Trump's nominee days before the election and secure a
likely conservative court majority for years to come.
Trump's choice to fill the vacancy of the late liberal icon Ruth Bader
Ginsburg potentially opens a new era of rulings on abortion, the Affordable
Care Act and even his own election. Democrats were unable to stop the outcome,
Trump's third justice on the court, as Republicans race to reshape the
Barrett, 48, will be able to start work Tuesday, her lifetime appointment as
the 115th justice solidifying the court's rightward tilt.
"This is a momentous day for America," Trump said at a primetime swearing-in
event on the South Lawn at the White House. Justice Clarence Thomas
administered the Constitutional Oath to Barrett before a crowd of about 200.
Barrett told those gathered that she believes "it is the job of a judge to
resist her policy preferences." She vowed, "I will do my job without any fear
Monday's vote was the closest high court confirmation ever to a presidential
election, and the first in modern times with no support from the minority
party. The spiking COVID-19 crisis has hung over the proceedings. Vice
President Mike Pence declined to preside at the Senate unless his tie-breaking
vote was needed after Democrats asked him to stay away when his aides tested
positive for COVID-19. The vote was 52-48, and Pence's vote was not necessary.
Voting to confirm this nominee should make every single senator proud," said
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, fending off "outlandish" criticism in a
lengthy speech. During a rare weekend session he declared that Barrett's
opponents "won't be able to do much about this for a long time to come."
Barrett, a federal appeals court judge from Indiana, is expected to take the
judicial oath administered by Chief Justice John Roberts in a private ceremony
Tuesday at the court to begin participating in proceedings.
Underscoring the political divide during the pandemic, the Republican
senators, most wearing masks, sat in their seats as is tradition for landmark
votes, and applauded the outcome, with fist-bumps. Democratic senators emptied
their side, heeding party leadership's advice to not linger in the chamber. A
Rose Garden event with Trump to announce Barrett's nomination last month ended
up spreading the virus, including to some GOP senators who have since returned
Pence's presence would have been expected for a high-profile moment. But
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and his leadership team said it would
not only violate virus guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, "it would also be a violation of common decency and courtesy."
Democrats argued for weeks that the vote was being improperly rushed and
insisted during an all-night Sunday session it should be up to the winner of
the Nov. 3 election to name the nominee.
Speaking near midnight Sunday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called the
vote "illegitimate" and "the last gasp of a desperate party."
Several matters are awaiting decision just a week before Election Day, and
Barrett could be a decisive vote in Republican appeals of orders extending the
deadlines for absentee ballots in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
The justices also are weighing Trump's emergency plea for the court to
prevent the Manhattan District Attorney from acquiring his tax returns. And on
Nov. 10, the court is expected to hear the Trump-backed challenge to the
Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Just before the Senate voted, the court sided
with Republicans in refusing to extend the deadline for absentee ballots in
Trump has said he wanted to swiftly install a ninth justice to resolve
election disputes and is hopeful the justices will end the health law known as
In a statement, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tied Barrett's
nomination to the court to the Republican effort to pull down the Affordable
Care Act. He called her confirmation "rushed and unprecedented" and a stark
reminder to Americans that "your vote matters."
During several days of public testimony before the Senate Judiciary
Committee, Barrett was careful not to disclose how she would rule on any such
She presented herself as a neutral arbiter and suggested, "It's not the law
of Amy." But her writings against abortion and a ruling on "Obamacare" show a
deeply conservative thinker.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee,
praised the mother of seven as a role model for conservative women. "This is
historic," Graham said.
Republicans focused on her Catholic faith, criticizing earlier Democratic
questions about her beliefs. Graham called Barrett "unabashedly pro-life."
At the start of Trump's presidency, McConnell engineered a Senate rules
change to allow confirmation by a majority of the 100 senators, rather than the
60-vote threshold traditionally needed to advance high court nominees over
objections. That was an escalation of a rules change Democrats put in place to
advance other court and administrative nominees under President Barack Obama.
Republicans are taking a political plunge days from the Nov. 3 election with
the presidency and their Senate majority at stake.
Only one Republican -- Sen. Susan Collins, who is in a tight reelection
fight in Maine -- voted against the nominee, not over any direct assessment of
Barrett. Rather, Collins said, "I do not think it is fair nor consistent to
have a Senate confirmation vote prior to the election."
Trump and his Republican allies had hoped for a campaign boost, in much the
way Trump generated excitement among conservatives and evangelical Christians
in 2016 over a court vacancy. That year, McConnell refused to allow the Senate
to consider then-President Barack Obama's choice to replace the late Justice
Antonin Scalia, arguing the new president should decide.
Most other Republicans facing tough races embraced the nominee who clerked
for the late Scalia to bolster their standing with conservatives. Sen. Thom
Tillis, R-N.C., said in a speech Monday that Barrett will "go down in history
as one of the great justices."
But it's not clear the extraordinary effort to install the new justice over
such opposition in a heated election year will pay political rewards to the GOP.
Demonstrations for and against the nominee have been more muted at the
Capitol under coronavirus restrictions.
Democrats were unified against Barrett. While two Democratic senators voted
to confirm Barrett in 2017 after Trump nominated the Notre Dame Law School
professor to the appellate court, none voted to confirm her to the high court.
In a display of party priorities, California Sen. Kamala Harris, the
Democratic vice presidential nominee, returned to Washington from the campaign
trail to join colleagues with a no vote.
No other Supreme Court justice has been confirmed on a recorded vote with no
support from the minority party in at least 150 years, according to information
provided by the Senate Historical Office.