By Patrick Forrest
United States Senators approved Judge Amy Coney Barrett on a 52-48 vote, with one Republican joining all Democrats who stood in opposition, making it the first high court confirmation without any support from the minority party since the Reconstruction era in the late 1800s. She was confirmed despite multiple reports by the Crusader, highlighting a troubling history in Judge Barrett’s past decisions, and her lack of experience in relation to the position that she will assume on the Supreme Court.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who has made reshaping the courts for conservative control the main focus of his legacy, praised Judge Barrett as “one of the most qualified nominees for judicial service that we have seen in our lifetimes.
“Her intellectual brilliance is unquestioned. Her command of the law is remarkable. Her integrity is above reproach,” McConnell said Sunday, October 25, on the Senate floor. “But just as importantly, Judge Barrett has displayed zero willingness to impose personal views or clumsily craft new policy with her gavel. She has demonstrated the judicial humility, the neutrality and the commitment to our written Constitution that are essential for this office.”
The final vote came after a rare overnight Senate session, with Democrats coming to the floor at all hours to denounce the process. Democrats were unified in opposition and joined by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“I want to be very clear with the American people about what is going on here,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Sunday. “The Republican Senate majority, America, is breaking faith with you — doing the exact opposite of what it promised just four years ago — to cement a majority on the Supreme Court that threatens your fundamental rights.”
The outcome of Monday’s vote was virtually guaranteed, even before President Donald Trump tapped Judge Barrett exactly one month ago to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died a week prior.
Experts have stated that the replacement of a leading liberal with a likely conservative will move the court to the right on issues ranging from abortion to administrative power.
In addition to the proximity to the election, Democrats also took issue with a confirmation process that moved quickly compared with others in recent decades.
The 30 days between Judge Barrett’s nomination and confirmation made it the fastest approval for an Associate Supreme Court Justice since 1975, when senators unanimously sent Justice John Paul Stevens to the high court 19 days after his formal nomination. The median timeline for the eight sitting justices is 77.5 days, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Following the urgency of the confirmation vote being successful, McConnell adjourned the Senate until November 9. The adjournment marks the end of hope for a federal COVID-19 relief bill before the election on November 3, leaving millions in the country without federal relief since late March.
“The American people would rightly think that we would be doing everything imaginable, everything within our power to address this pandemic in this rare five-day session leading up to a national election. But they would be wrong. They would be wrong because that is not the priority in the Senate,” Democratic Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said. “The priority in the Republican-controlled Senate is the filling of a vacancy on the Supreme Court.”
Democrats charged that Republicans acted quickly to confirm Judge Barrett not just to cement a conservative majority on the high court for years to come, but also to immediately impact key cases this year.
“She gets to choose the day when she’s sworn in. I would like to suggest to her, for the integrity of the Court and to remove any possible cloud over her nomination created by the President’s tweets and promises, I would like to ask her to pledge to the American people that whatever the Senate does, she will not take the oath of office until a new president is sworn in,” Durbin said in a statement.
“If she will wait and absent herself from any election contest or debate on the Affordable Care Act, it will start to remove this orange cloud of doubt over her nomination.”
Liberals portrayed the judge as a threat to the Affordable Care Act, whose constitutionality comes before the court again in a case set for argument November 10. However, the overall law seems likely to survive this challenge, according to experts, Republican senators, and Judge Barrett herself.
Leaders on the left wing of the party have called on voters to create consequences for the Republican leaders who have pushed the confirmation.
“For every American whose home-state senator voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, we have one message: vote them out,” said Ben Jealous, President of People for the American Way.
“Vote them out, whether your opportunity comes in the next few days or in two years, because they don’t care about you.”
Jealous argued that the impacts of the confirmation will be felt by Americans who will potentially lose health care coverage as well as the potential impact to the result of the upcoming presidential election.
“Any senator who voted to confirm Barrett voted to undo the Affordable Care Act and protections for pre-existing conditions,” Jealous said. “They voted to disenfranchise millions of people, in the event Donald Trump refuses to accept electoral defeat and seeks help from his appointees on the Supreme Court.”
While both of Illinois’ Democratic senators voted against the confirmation, both of Indiana’s Republicans senators Todd Young and Mike Braun, up for re-election in 2023 and 2025 respectively, supported and touted Barrett as someone that Hoosiers should be proud of.
“I proudly cast my vote for Supreme Court nominee, and fellow Hoosier, Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” Young said in a statement just prior to his vote for Barrett’s confirmation Monday. “This is a proud day for Indiana, as one of our own will soon be sworn in as the next Supreme Court Associate Justice.”
Vice President Mike Pence did not preside over Monday’s vote as President of the Senate. He said Saturday that he “wouldn’t miss that vote for the world,” but he did not attend after several staffers tested positive for COVID-19, expanding the number of top-level White House staffers who have tested positive for the virus.
Judge Barrett joins the high court in time to hear any election disputes, the ACA challenge and a slew of other major cases involving the special counsel’s Russia probe, federal agencies’ power and LGBTQ discrimination in foster care.
In keeping with McConnell’s motto of “leave no vacancy behind,” Trump last week announced his pick to replace Judge Barrett on the Seventh Circuit — former Winston & Strawn LLP partner Thomas L. Kirsch II, who currently serves as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana.