Senate on track to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court in final vote

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The Senate is all but certain Monday to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court with just days to go before Election Day. The vote is expected to take place Monday evening, after Democrats exhausted the procedural maneuvers undertaken to delay her confirmation.

The Senate agreed Sunday afternoon to limit debate to 30 hours, and after that, Barrett is expected to be confirmed largely along party lines, with every Democrat voting “no.” Her confirmation will give conservatives a significant 6-3 majority on the court, which has left Democrats concerned about the fate of the nation’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act, and Roe v. Wade, the landmark law 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.

Republicans have praised Barrett’s qualifications and her judicial record, but Democrats have slammed Republicans for pushing Barrett’s confirmation so close to Election Day after Republicans blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat in 2016. Republicans argued at the time that a Supreme Court nomination should not be considered in an election year, that voters should be able to weigh in by choosing their president. The newly elected president, they said, should select the justice.

Scalia died nine months before the 2016 election. Republicans had a new argument after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died a month and a half before the 2020 election — when some states had already begun early voting. Now, they say it’s appropriate to fill the vacant seat before the election, because one party currently controls both the Senate and the White House.

“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,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Sunday.  

The confirmation of 48-year-old Barrett is likely to have a decades-long impact on the high court, McConnell also suggested.

“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” he said. “They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

During her confirmation hearings, Barrett followed the time-honored tradition of refusing to weigh in on cases that could come before her as a justice. She also declined to say whether she would recuse herself in a general election-related case, should the disputed results of the race between President Trump and Joe Biden come before the Supreme Court. Barrett will be the third justice nominated by Mr. Trump, after Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Democrats questioned her judicial philosophy during her confirmation hearings, since Barrett has said she aligns herself ideologically very closely with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she once clerked. Scalia dissented in cases that upheld the ACA and expanded LGBT rights, raising concerns she might vote in a similar fashion.

“I assure you I have my own mind. Everything that he said is not necessarily what I would agree with or what I would do if I was Justice Barrett,” Barrett said about Scalia.

However, Democrats were disappointed by her refusal to answer simple questions with clear answers, such as whether it is constitutional for a president to move Election Day or prevent anyone from voting.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins were the only two Republicans in the Senate to express opposition to filling the vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death so close to the election. Murkowski announced on Saturday that she would vote to confirm Barrett, but Collins has not yet said how she intends to vote. Both voted Sunday against limiting debate on Barrett, a break from the rest of the GOP. 

In a speech on the Senate floor on Friday, McConnell praised Barrett as an “exceptional nominee,” and argued that “every escalation has been initiated from the other side.” He blamed former Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid for invoking the “nuclear option” in 2013, a procedural move that changed the Senate rules so that instead of a three-fifths majority, only a simple majority of 51 votes would be needed to confirm presidential nominees — except for Supreme Court nominees. 

In 2017, McConnell applied the “nuclear option” to Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, enabling him to be confirmed 54 to 45. He also argued Republicans had acted within the rules and within the Constitution in blocking Garland’s confirmation in 2016.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday told McConnell that he doesn’t “have the right to argue consistency when you’re doing what you’re doing now.”

“The Republican majority’s monomaniacal drive to confirm this justice in the most hypocritical, the most inconsistent of circumstances, will forever defile the Senate and even more importantly, curtail the fundamental rights of the American people for generations to come,” Schumer said.

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