With just a week to go until Election Day, Senate Republicans pushed through the confirmation of Trump Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, potentially giving the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority for decades.
The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm the 48-year-old judge – with GOP Senator from Maine, Susan Collins, joining Democrats to vote against the nomination. Ms. Collins faces a tight election in Maine against Indian American candidate and Maine House Speaker Sara Gidoen.
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Ms. Barrett, who was nominated to replace liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg , will be the first mother of school-aged children and the fifth ever woman appointed to the Court. With her appointment, six of the nine judges of the Supreme Court will be Catholic.
Democrats campaigned publicly against the nomination – saying it was hypocritical for Senate Republicans, who had blocked Merrick Garland, a Barack Obama nominee from the former President’s last year in office, to go through with Ms. Barrett’s confirmation with an election underway. Some sixty million Americans have already cast their ballots.
Ms. Barrett’s potential positions on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), immigration, abortion rights, climate change, gay rights and how she may rule on any election related cases in the event that a narrow victory or loss is litigated could impact the country for decades to come.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s eleventh hour nomination had become a campaign talking point for both parties. During and before her confirmation hearing, Democrats warned that Americans’ health insurance could be in jeopardy during a raging pandemic if Ms. Barrett’s appointment went through. The Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to the ACA in November.
During her confirmation hearing, Judge Barrett had declined to say whether she would recuse herself from the ACA case or any election-related cases. On the elections, she said she would not allow herself “to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people.”
When asked by Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris whether climate change was “happening “ and “threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink,” Ms. Barrett declined to answer, saying the issue was “very contentious” and a matter of public debate.
A gathering Mr. Trump had hosted to announce Ms. Barrett’s nomination at the end of September is thought to have been a “super-spreader event” — one that resulted in a number of attendees, including Mr. Trump, getting infected with the coronavirus. At Ms. Barrett’s confirmation ceremony on Monday night at the White House, officials decided to follow social distancing norms: chairs were spread out and most attendees wore masks.
“The Barrett family has captured America’s heart. It is highly fitting that Justice Barrett fills the sea of a true pioneer for women, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Mr. Trump said with a smiling Barrett at his side.
With Ms. Barrett’s appointment to the Court, Democrats are expected to consider term limits for Supreme Court justices as well as increasing the number of justices in the court.
“My Senate Republican colleagues have just done great harm to the American people by confirming Judge Barrett to the United States Supreme Court. There is no question about that,” said Ms. Harris, who had paused her campaigning to return to Washington for the Senate vote.
Amy Coney Barrett has taken the first of two oaths she needs to officially join the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice John Roberts is set to administer a second oath — known as the judicial oath — to the former federal appeals court judge at a private ceremony at the court on Tuesday.
( With inputs from AP, Reuters )