The Republican-held Senate on Monday evening voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as the newest justice to the Supreme Court, giving President Trump his third appointment to the high court just a week before the Nov. 3 election.
Barrett, 48, will be sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas at the White House. She will be the fifth female justice in the court’s history.
Barrett replaces liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg and conservatives believe she will tilt the ideological balance of the bench for decades — infuriating Democrats.
Trump trumpeted the victory hours earlier during a rally in Martinsburg, Penn., calling Barrett “one of our nation’s most brilliant legal minds.”
“She will defend our rights, our liberties and our God given freedoms,” Trump said. “We were all watching in great amusement as she was so-called grilled by the opposition. That was easy.”
Trump added: “I’m glad she’s not running for president. I’d much rather go against sleepy Joe [Biden].”
Barrett, previously a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, is a favorite among religious conservatives and will be the seventh Catholic on the nine-person court.
All Republicans except Sen. Susan Collins of Maine voted in favor of Barrett and all Democrats opposed her in the 52-48 vote.
The Indiana resident is the first mother on the court with minor children. Her seven children — four girls and three boys — range from age 8 to 19. Two of her children were adopted from Haiti.
Barrett will begin hearing cases immediately, with the next scheduled oral arguments on Nov. 2.
Controversial cases going before the court include Texas v. California on Nov. 10, through which the court may strike down the rump of Obamacare following the 2017 repeal of the law’s mandate forcing individuals to purchase private health insurance.
Democrats claimed during Barrett’s confirmation hearings that she was being confirmed quickly so she could hear that case and help gut the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The issue is an election-year vulnerability for Republicans, but Trump says he would resurrect those protections if the law is struck down.
Other looming cases include a dispute the Supreme Court will hear Nov. 4 about whether a Catholic organization that receives taxpayer funds can choose not to place children with same-sex couples.
On Dec. 2, Barrett will hear arguments from House Democrats who want access to grand jury notes and redacted portions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report, which found no evidence Trump colluded with Russia.
The court also agreed to hear cases in its upcoming term on Trump’s 2019 diversion of military funds to build the US-Mexico border wall, and on the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that requires most asylum seekers from Central America to remain in Mexico while their requests are considered.
The Supreme Court additionally may play a role in the election in response to lawsuits over the widespread use of mail-in ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in a possible redux of Bush v. Gore, when justices voted five-four in 2000 to end a recount of ballots in Florida, effectively handing victory to Republican George W. Bush.
Barrett is Trump’s third confirmed justice in four years in office. All other presidents since Ronald Reagan have had just two justices, even over eight years.
Ginsburg, 87, died unexpectedly last month after more than two decades of intermittent cancer treatments.
Collins is in a tight re-election race and said Sunday she opposed Barrett to be “fair and consistent” after Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama’s election-year nomination of Merrick Garland.
Trump said during his Pennsylvania campaign trip that Barrett’s swearing-in event would be small — after many attendees of Barrett’s Sept. 26 nomination celebration in the Rose Garden, including Trump, caught COVID-19.
“No, not a large event. Just a very nice event,” Trump said.
Barrett emerged unscathed from Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, enraged fellow Democrats by saying it was “one of the best set of hearings that I have participated in.”
But many Democrats feel cheated out of their own opportunity to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to hold a vote on Garland, saying voters should decide. Republicans note the Senate and presidency were held by different parties at the time.
Democrats were powerless to do more than gripe and claim hypocrisy. No Democrat showed up to Barrett’s committee confirmation vote last week.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) fumed that Republicans were guilty of “the partisan theft of two seats,” using “absurd and obnoxious” justifications and a “hypocritical double standard.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) gave an impassioned Senate floor speech Monday, saying Trump wanted Barrett confirmed to re-criminalize abortion, torpedo Obamacare and “hand him the election.”
“Simply put, Judge Barrett as Justice Barrett, I am convinced, will open a new chapter of conservative judicial activism unlike anything we’ve seen,” Coons said.
McConnell defended the confirmation vote and called Barrett “a woman of unparalleled intellect.”
“The process comports entirely with the Constitution. We don’t have any doubt, do we, that if the shoe was on the other foot they’d be confirming,” the Republican leader said.
McConnell added about Democrats: “How many times have we heard that President Trump won’t accept outcomes he does not like? Well, they’re flunking that very test right before our eyes… The reason this outcome came about is because we had a series of successful elections.”
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