Dear Commons Community,
As expected, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative appeals court judge and protégée of former Justice Antonin Scalia, was confirmed last night to the US Supreme Court, capping a Senate approval that handed President Trump a victory ahead of the election and promised to tip the court to the right for years to come.
Inside a Capitol mostly emptied by the coronavirus pandemic and an election eight days away, Republicans overcame unanimous Democratic opposition to make Judge Barrett the 115th justice of the Supreme Court and the fifth woman. The vote was 52 to 48, with all but one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, who is battling for re-election, supporting her.
It was the first time in 151 years that a justice was confirmed without the support of a single member of the minority party, a sign of how bitter Washington’s war over judicial nominations has become. As reported by The New York Times:
“The vote concluded a drive by Republicans to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just six weeks before the election. They shredded their own past pronouncements and bypassed rules in the process, even as they stared down the potential loss of the White House and the Senate.
Democrats insisted Republican should have waited for voters to have their say on Election Day. They warned of a disastrous precedent that would draw retaliation should they win power, and, in a last-ditch act of protest, tried unsuccessfully to force the Senate to adjourn before the confirmation vote.
Republicans said it was their right as the majority party and exulted in their win. In replacing Justice Ginsburg, a liberal icon, the court is gaining a conservative who could sway cases in every area of American life, including abortion rights, gay rights, business regulation and the environment.
“The reason this outcome came about is because we had a series of successful elections,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who was the architect of the strategy. “What this administration and this Republican Senate has done is exercise the 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.”
Judge Barrett’s impact could be felt right away. There are major election disputes awaiting immediate action by the Supreme Court from the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Both concern the date by which absentee ballots may be accepted.
Soon after, she will confront a docket studded with major cases on Mr. Trump’s policies, not to mention a potential challenge to the election results that the president had cited as a reason he needed a full complement of justices before Nov. 3. Coming up quickly are challenges related to the Affordable Care Act, signature Trump administration immigration plans, the rights of same-sex couples and the census.
The court is also slated to act soon on a last-ditch attempt from Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers to block the release of his financial records to a grand jury in Manhattan.”
In addition to the presidential election, the deliberations of the US Supreme Court will be followed most closely by the news media in the coming months.