Senate Set for Vote Monday to Place Barrett on Supreme Court
(Bloomberg) -- Amy Coney Barrett is on the cusp of confirmation, with the Senate ready to vote Monday night to elevate her to the Supreme Court and Justice Clarence Thomas prepared to administer her oath at the White House eight days before the presidential election.
Barrett, President Donald Trump’s choice to replace the liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died of cancer on Sept. 18, will help create a 6-3 conservative majority on the court. Thomas will administer the Constitutional Oath to Barrett at the White House on Monday night, according to a senior White House official. It’s one of two oaths she must take before ascending to the court.
The stage was set for her confirmation Sunday when the Senate, on a party-line vote, broke a Democratic filibuster and left her swift elevation all but certain. In a final piece of controversy after weeks of partisan acrimony over the confirmation, Democrats urged Vice President Mike Pence not to be present at Monday’s vote as the Senate’s presiding officer, since several of his top aides or advisers tested positive for the coronavirus.
After saying on Saturday that he wouldn’t want to “miss that vote for the world,” Pence now isn’t planning to be at the Capitol, according to a person familiar with his plans. The vice president tested negative Monday, a spokesperson said.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday warned colleagues to take extra precautions, given the infections among White House staff. He said aides to a Republican senator, whom he didn’t identify, also have tested positive for Covid-19.
Sunday’s vote followed delaying tactics by Democratic opponents and demonstrated that Barrett, 48, has the backing she needs to be seated on the court.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor Sunday, called Barrett “a stellar nominee in every single respect” who will have a lasting impact.
“We made an important contribution to the future of this country,” he said. “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”
Barrett, an appellate court judge who teaches at Notre Dame Law School and once clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, will extend Trump’s drive to reshape the federal judiciary and could give the Supreme Court a rightward tilt for decades.
Assuming Barrett is confirmed, White House officials are planning an outdoor swearing-in ceremony Monday night, according to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
“We’re doing -- tonight -- doing the best we can to encourage as much social distancing as possible,” Meadows said of the event. “It’ll be outdoors if it goes off as planned right now.”
He downplayed concerns that a Sept. 26 White House event unveiling Barrett’s nomination might have been the cause of a coronavirus outbreak that infected Trump and others. Meadows said the White House would “continue to do testing around those that are critical to the mission.”
Senate Democrats used procedural delays and a Judiciary Committee boycott to protest a process they say unfolded with undue haste after Ginsburg’s death, and as voting was under way to elect a new president and one-third of the Senate.
They say Barrett could change how the court might rule in areas including abortion, the Affordable Care Act, civil rights and lawsuits that could stem from the 2020 elections.
“The Senate has never confirmed a Supreme Court justice so close to the election,” Schumer said after the vote.
“Republicans are rushing to hold a confirmation vote tomorrow night, eight days before the election and after more than 50 million Americans have voted for president -- quite possibly a different president -- to pick justices on their behalf,” Schumer said. He accused Republicans of leveraging “raw political power.”
Republicans have enough votes to confirm Barrett without the support of any Democrats. This means Pence won’t need to cast a tie-breaker vote. Politico first reported that Pence won’t attend Monday’s Senate session.
Democrats and two Republicans -- Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- voted Sunday against allowing Barrett’s nomination to advance to Monday’s final vote. Both said earlier the vacancy should be filled by the next president, whether it’s Trump or Democrat Joe Biden.
Collins has also said she’ll vote against Barrett’s confirmation, but Murkowski announced Saturday she would support confirmation in Monday’s vote because Barrett, in her opinion, is qualified for the job.
“While I oppose the process that has led us to this point, I do not hold it against her,” Murkowski said in a floor speech on Saturday.
In testimony this month to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett declined to answer questions on how she might rule on issues ranging from abortion to voting rights to health care.
While saying she wasn’t calling for the court to be more aggressive in overturning its precedents, when given a chance she didn’t include cases involving access to abortion and contraception rights on her list of “super-precedents” that would be unthinkable to overturn.
Democrats have warned of Barrett’s potential impact on the ACA, their central issue for the upcoming election. Barrett likely would be on the court when it hears arguments Nov. 10 in a case that could undo Obamacare, which provides health insurance for 20 million Americans.
“She’s sent plenty of signals in the past about how she feels about the ACA,” said Senator Dick Durbin on Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader and a senior Judiciary Committee member. He said Trump Republicans are “bound and determined” to abolish it.
When pressed by Democrats, the nominee also wouldn’t commit to recusing herself from cases related to the 2020 election that may come before the court. Trump said earlier he wanted Ginsburg’s replacement to help rule in his favor.
A devout Catholic and mother of seven, Barrett personally opposes abortion and once wrote that it is “always immoral.” But she testified she will set aside her personal views in her work as a judge.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.