By MARY CLARE JALONICK
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is speeding toward confirmation, with a majority of the Senate supporting her and a final vote expected Monday. She could be sworn in as a justice almost immediately, just a week before the election.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was poised to approve Barrett’s nomination this morning, sending it to the full Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said confirming Barrett, 48, will be “another signature accomplishment” for Republicans in their effort to fill the courts with “men and women who believe in the quaint notion that maybe the job of a judge is to actually follow the law.”
Democrats have made a vigorous case against Barrett’s confirmation and argue the seat last held by the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should not be filled so close to the election. Yet they have no recourse to stop it.
A look at what’s next for Barrett’s nomination, and what her confirmation would mean:
The Senate Judiciary Committee will debate and vote on Barrett’s nomination today, sending it to the Senate floor.
Democrats have said they will boycott the vote in protest, but majority Republicans say they will proceed anyway under the panel’s rules. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement after the Democrats’ announcement that Barrett “deserves to be on the Supreme Court and she will be confirmed.”
In a statement Wednesday with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, the committee Democrats said they will “not grant this process any further legitimacy by participating in a committee markup of this nomination just twelve days before the culmination of an election that is already underway.”
Barrett could be sworn in the same day of the confirmation vote, so she could be a justice as soon as Monday.
One of her first acts could be to attend a private telephone conference of the justices on Oct. 30. Oral arguments at the court resume on Nov. 2 and they being done over the phone through at least through December because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The court already has eight cases on the calendar for the first two weeks of November, including one on Nov. 4, the day after the presidential election, that’s a test of religious rights, a dispute over a Philadelphia Catholic agency that won’t place foster children with same-sex couples.
The following week the justices will hear a challenge to the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Democrats made that case central to their argument against Barrett, warning she could be a vote to strike down the law. Barrett said she couldn’t comment on the case, but emphasized that she is not on a “mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”
Barrett would also be part of any court decisions related to the presidential election, unless she recused herself from them.
An easy majority
Republicans are expected to easily confirm Barrett once her nomination reaches the Senate. They control the chamber by a 53-47 margin, and only one Republican, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, is a certain “no” vote. A second Republican, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has said she opposes filling the seat before the election.
Still, senators will have to pass through several procedural steps before the final tally. In addition to boycotting the committee hearing, Democrats objecting to the nomination are expected to force multiple floor votes over the weekend, potentially keeping Republican senators in Washington who would otherwise be at home campaigning.
Democrats’ only recourse:
With no ability to stop Barrett’s ascent, Democrats are trying to turn voters against the nomination by making the case that she could strike down the Affordable Care Act and roll back abortion rights. In four days of hearings last week, they spent much of their questioning focused on those two issues.
Democrats have also argued that McConnell’s decision to move forward on Barrett’s nomination after Ginsburg died in September is “hypocrisy” after Republicans refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, several months before the 2016 election. Republicans say the difference is that the White House and Senate are now controlled by the same party.
New court balance
Barrett’s confirmation would cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court for years to come. The shift from Ginsburg to the conservative appeals court judge from Indiana would be the most pronounced ideological change on the court in 30 years.
Barrett is the most open opponent of abortion nominated to the Supreme Court in decades — Republicans called her a “pro-life” judge during her confirmation hearings — and she could tilt the balance on that issue and many others.
The campaign factor
It is unclear whether Barrett’s confirmation will help or hurt either President Donald Trump or Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential contest. The confirmation vote will be held eight days before the Nov. 3 election, which is without precedent.
Republicans are defending 25 of the 38 Senate seats that are on the ballot this year, and most of their vulnerable members have embraced Barrett in an effort to bolster their standing with conservatives. Cory Gardner in Colorado, Martha McSally in Arizona, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Kelly Loeffler in Georgia, John Cornyn in Texas and Thom Tillis in North Carolina quickly rallied to Trump’s pick and called for a quick confirmation.
Another senator in a tight race, Collins, opposed an immediate vote and said the next president should decide who replaces Ginsburg.