Senate Republicans voted Monday night to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, tilting the balance of the court to a 6-3 conservative majority for years to come and handing President Donald Trump a victory barely a week before the election.
Every Republican but one, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, voted to confirm Barrett. Every Democrat voted no. The final tally was 52 to 48.
The White House planned to hold a large outdoor event later Monday night to celebrate Barrett’s confirmation, despite a previous White House event for Barrett triggering a coronavirus outbreak among attendees. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reportedly will administer the constitutional oath to Barrett at the event.
Barrett’s confirmation ends a weekslong dash by Republicans to put her on the court before the Nov. 3 election, in the event Trump loses reelection and leaves a potential President Joe Biden better positioned to fill the seat in 2021. Barrett, 48, will fill the seat left vacant by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.
Democrats protested the rushed process, calling it a “sham” and boycotting Barrett’s vote out of the Judiciary Committee. They criticized Republicans for the hypocrisy of filling a Supreme Court seat in a presidential election year after they denied President Barack Obama the ability to do so. They warned that Barrett is a threat to the Affordable Care Act and highlighted her record of hostility to the health care law, women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights. But they never had the votes to stop her confirmation.
Ahead of the vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats’ complaints about the process were unfounded.
“You can’t win ’em all,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Elections have consequences.”
“What this administration and this Republican Senate has done is exercise a power that was given to us by the American people in a manner that is entirely within the rules of the Senate and the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
But Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Monday’s vote “one of the darkest days” in the history of the 231 years of the Senate, and said Republicans will regret their power grab in the long haul.
“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,” Schumer said. “The next time the American people give Democrats a majority in this chamber, you will have forfeited the right to tell us how to run that majority.”
Barrett, a conservative U.S. appeals court judge, dodged even the most basic questions in her confirmation hearing. She refused to say if climate change is real (it is), and wouldn’t say if it is illegal to vote twice in a presidential election (it is).
Barrett is Trump’s third Supreme Court justice, after Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. All three are members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization through which Trump has outsourced his selection of Supreme Court justices and nearly all of his 53 appeals court judges. The Federalist Society is part of a vast and secretive $250 million network of groups promoting conservative judges and causes.
During Barrett’s confirmation hearing this month, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) connected the dots between the conservative dark money groups and Barrett’s nomination, saying her confirmation is the grand prize for big donors hoping for favorable court rulings on the issues they care about: among them, weakening or doing away with the Affordable Care Act, abortion rights and marriage equality.
“Two hundred and fifty million dollars is a lot of money to spend if you’re not getting anything for it,” he said as Barrett sat feet away. “So that raises the question, ‘What are they getting for it?’”