WASHINGTON (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — The U.S. Senate on Monday evening confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court with just days to go before Election Day.
She was sworn in as Justice Amy Coney Barrett soon afterward.
The final vote was 52-48 down party lines. No Democrats voted to confirm Barrett, while Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to vote not to.
The move solidifies the conservative majority on the court as it is set to consider several high-profile cases in the coming months.
Red state Democratic Senators Doug Jones of Alabama, who is up for reelection this year, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, both voted not to confirm Barrett.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 26, 2020
The vote took place Monday evening, after Democrats exhausted the procedural maneuvers undertaken to delay her confirmation.
Barrett most recently was a judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Barrett’s confirmation has left Democrats concerned about the fate of the nation’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act, and Roe v. Wade, the landmark law allowing women to have access to abortions. The court will be hearing a case on the constitutionality of the ACA’s individual mandate in November. Barrett could also end up weighing on a general election-related case involving the man who nominated her, should the disputed results of the race between President Trump and Joe Biden come before the Supreme Court.
Following the vote, the White House hosted an event Monday night honoring Barrett and she was sworn in. President Donald Trump delivered remarks to supporters at three rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, but returned to the White House as the Senate vote took place.
“The Barrett family has captured America’s heart,” President Trump said at the White House event. “It is highly fitting that Justice Barrett fills the seat of a true pioneer for women, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
President Trump: "The Barrett family has captured America's heart. It is highly fitting that Justice Barrett fills the seat of a true pioneer for women, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg." https://t.co/N5sHKOlU5i pic.twitter.com/AbzfWBeYn4
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 27, 2020
Justice Clarence Thomas administered the constitutional oath to Barrett, with President Trump standing in between Thomas and Barrett.
“I am grateful for the confidence you have expressed in me, and I pledge to you and to the American people that I will discharge my duties to the very best of my ability,” Barrett said after she was sworn in.
A senior White House official told CBS News face coverings were required, and the chairs were spaced out, in contrast to the nomination ceremony in the Rose Garden earlier this month. Several attendees of the ceremony, including the president, tested positive for COVID-19 after that “super-spreader” event.
The Trump campaign also celebrated Barrett’s confirmation.
“Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a reminder to millions of Americans why they voted for President Trump in the first place. She is now the third solid, conservative Justice appointed to the Supreme Court by the President and she will apply the Constitution and not turn the Court into a super legislature,” Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis said. “Her nomination and confirmation exposed the radical leftist plan to pack the Court by expanding its size, and also put Joe Biden on the spot. He must now come clean with the American people, reveal his list of prospective justices, explain his position on court packing, and stop telling voters that they ‘don’t deserve’ to know what he thinks.”
Republicans have praised Barrett’s qualifications and her judicial record, but Democrats have slammed Republicans for pushing Barrett’s confirmation so close to Election Day after Republicans blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat in 2016. Republicans argued at the time that a Supreme Court nomination should not be considered in an election year, that voters should be able to weigh in by choosing their president. The newly elected president, they said, should select the justice.
Scalia died nine months before the 2016 election. Republicans had a new argument after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died a month and a half before the 2020 election — when some states had already begun early voting. Now, they say it’s appropriate to fill the vacant seat before the election, because one party currently controls both the Senate and the White House.
“We don’t have any doubt, do we, that if the shoe was on the other foot, they’d be confirming this nominee. And have no doubt, if the shoe was on the other foot in 2016, they’d have done the same thing,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor Monday.
McConnell also noted that the confirmation process for Barrett was entirely legal and constitutional, despite Democratic claims that it was “illegitimate.”
“All these outlandish claims are utterly absurd, and the louder they scream, the more inaccurate they are,” McConnell said. McConnell also argued that while Democrats often complain that Mr. Trump does not accept outcomes he does not like, “they’re flunking that very test right before our eyes.”
In a speech on the Senate floor ahead of the vote on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer excoriated Republicans for pushing the vote through ahead of Election Day. He hinted that he may support ideas such as adding justices to the Supreme Court if Democrats take the majority next year.
“You may win this vote. And Amy Coney Barrett may become the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. But you will never get your credibility back,” Schumer said. “And the next time the American people give Democrats a majority in this chamber, you will have forfeited your right to tell us how to run that majority.”
“The Senate is doing the right thing. We’re moving this nomination forward, and colleagues, by tomorrow night, we’ll have a new member of the United States Supreme Court,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Sunday.
McConnell said on Sunday that the confirmation of 48-year-old Barrett is likely to have a decades-long impact on the high court.
“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” he said. “They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), both Democrats, denounced Barrett’s confirmation.
Duckworth called it “infuriating, awful and illegitimate.”
In a statement, Duckworth’s office noted that the senator has been vocal about her opposition to the Barrett appointment from the beginning. When Barrett was nominated, Duckworth said: “instead of addressing the many life-and-death issues facing working families during COVID-19, Trump and the Senate Republicans are focused on jamming through this nomination in a transparent grab for power so they can achieve their long-sought goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act and ripping away healthcare from millions – including every COVID-19 survivor who now has a pre-existing condition.”
Duckworth’s office added in the statement: “Following reports that Amy Coney Barrett supported a radical organization that believes life begins at fertilization and that steps in the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process should be criminalized, Duckworth sent an emotional and personal letter to each of Senate colleagues, including those who had applauded and cuddled her daughter Maile Pearl when she became the first infant allowed on the Senate floor, urging them to consider what a vote for this nominee would say to the millions of Americans hoping to start a family using IVF therapy. Duckworth used IVF to get pregnant with both of her daughters, Abigail and Maile Pearl, and made history in 2018 when she advocated for the Senate to change its rules so she could bring her infant onto the Senate floor.”
The statement quoted Duckworth as previously saying that “if Republicans insist on confirming Judge Barrett, the Court could roll back women’s reproductive rights, greenlight more dark money in politics, jeopardize voting rights and civil rights for Black and brown communities and knock down any progress on climate action.”
Durbin, the Senate Democratic Whip, released the following statement:
“This is a dark day for the United States Senate. Republicans are defying the rules and traditions of this body in a rush to confirm Judge Barrett in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic and an election.
“On Friday and Saturday, more than 83,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported each day—the highest daily totals since the pandemic began. More than 225,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and more than 8.6 million have been infected. And more than 60 million ballots have already been cast in the presidential election that is just eight days away.
“But Republicans refuse to let that reality intrude on their top priority: cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court before Election Day and before the November 10 arguments in the case where Republicans are seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act’s coverage and pre-existing condition protections for millions of Americans—all in the middle of a pandemic.
“As a result of this partisan power grab, the future of the Affordable Care Act, the right to privacy and choice, the outcome of the election, and so many other important rights and protections are at risk. I believe my Republican colleagues will regret the consequences of taking the Senate down this path.”
CBS News’ Grace Segers, Gabrielle Ake, Kristin Brown, and Arden Farhi contributed to this report.
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