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Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be the next associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Barrett to the nation’s highest court on Monday evening, just eight days ahead of the November 3 presidential election. Barrett, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and a conservative darling, will replace the late, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court and seal a 6-3 conservative majority that will likely last for years.
The vote, as expected, split almost entirely along party lines, with every Democrat voting in opposition to Barrett’s confirmation. The only Republican senator to break ranks was Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who voted against Barrett.
Senate Democrats had spent the last month fighting in vain against replacing Ginsburg, who died in mid-September after several bouts of cancer, before the election. They’ve tried to paint the confirmation process as a rushed and hypocritical sham, pointing out that, in 2016, Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland on the grounds that a new Supreme Court justice shouldn’t be confirmed in an election year. (The GOP has argued it’s fine this time, because the same party—the Republicans—control both the Senate and the White House.)
“Elections have consequences, and what this administration and this Republican senate has done is exercise the power that was given to us by the American people in a matter that is entirely within the rules of the Senate and the Constitution of the United States,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican senator of Kentucky, just minutes ahead of the vote.
Democrats have also tried to highlight just how much power Justice Barrett, 48, will have to rewrite American law—and, potentially, shape the course of an election in which nearly 60 million people have already voted. Not only are issues like abortion, LGBTQ rights, and gun control likely to come before the bench in the coming years, but the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in another lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act on November 10, just days after the election.
During her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee two weeks ago, Democratic senators drew parallels to the legendarily conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who Barrett clerked for. When President Donald Trump introduced Barrett at a Rose Garden ceremony in late September, Barrett told the crowd of Scalia, “His judicial philosophy is mine.”
Barrett told the Democrats that she would make her own decisions on cases, rather than mirror Scalia’s. But she also largely avoided giving any clues about how she may rule on future cases or how she feels about some of the hottest political and legal issues in the United States right now.
In particular, Barrett evaded answering questions about the limits of presidential power: She declined to say if Trump can pardon himself, if a president can unilaterally move an election, or if presidents should commit to peaceful transfers of power. She has also declined to say whether she believes that systemic racism and climate change are real.
But Senate Republicans didn’t try to hide that Barrett, a devout Catholic, is personally opposed to abortion. Supporters of abortion rights fear that Barrett will help overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
When the Senate Judiciary Committee met last week to vote on whether to advance Barrett’s nomination, Democrats ended up boycotting the vote. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee chair, waived the committee’s rules and held a vote anyway, without any Democrats president, to advance Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate.
On Sunday, Democrats tried to filibuster Barrett’s nomination, to no avail.
“This Republican senate majority is breaking faith with you, doing the exact opposite of what it promised four years ago, because they wish to cement a majority on the Supreme Court that threatens your fundamental rights,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, told the American people in a speech before the vote. “And I want to be very clear with my Republican colleagues: You may win this vote and Amy Coney Barrett may become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court, but you will never never get your credibility back.”
The Trump administration plans to swear Barrett in right after the vote, in a White House ceremony Monday. The Rose Garden ceremony where Trump first introduced Barrett is now suspected to have contributed to a coronavirus outbreak among Senate Republicans and White House staffers; Trump even tested positive for the coronavirus after the ceremony.
Barrett marks Trump’s third appointment to the Supreme Court, following Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Trump has also now appointed more than 200 federal judges and tilted the American federal judiciary towards conservatism for a generation to come.