Senate clears key hurdle to Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination

Washington — Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court cleared its final procedural hurdle Sunday, setting up a final vote on her confirmation expected on Monday evening, just days before the presidential election.

The procedural vote — which starts the clock for 30 hours of debate on her confirmation — split 51-48, with GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joining Democrats in voting against limiting debate. Murkowski, however, said Saturday she will vote to confirm Barrett to the high court. A simple majority, 51 votes, was needed for the procedural motion to pass. Senator Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, did not vote.

“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.

Barrett is likely to be confirmed by the full Senate over the objections of Democratic lawmakers.

Following four days of confirmation hearings earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to send Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote. All Republicans on the 22-member panel voted to advance the nomination, while the committee’s 10 Democrats boycotted the vote.

The Senate then convened for a rare weekend session to clear the last hurdles before moving to the vote to confirm Barrett, which is set to take place Monday evening, just eight days before the presidential election.

Vice President Mike Pence is expected to preside over the confirmation vote, a move that left Democrats outraged since five people close to the vice president, including his chief of staff Marc Short, have recently tested positive for COVID-19.

“The vice president is maintaining his campaign schedule and, inexplicably, intends to preside over the Senate chamber tomorrow evening,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, wrote in a letter to his Democratic colleagues Sunday. “Their carelessness with the health and safety of their colleagues and Capitol employees mirrors their carelessness with the health and safety of Americans during this crisis.”

Schumer urged Democratic senators not to congregate in the Senate chamber and cast their votes quickly.

Monday’s vote by the full Senate to confirm Barrett will come weeks after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose seat Barrett will fill, and one month to the day since President Trump announced her as his pick to the high court. Democrats urged the White House and their GOP colleagues to allow the winner of the November presidential election to fill the vacancy, citing the proximity to the electoral contest and Republicans’ own opposition to taking up a Supreme Court nominee months before an election after Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016. 

But Republicans argue the situation this year differs from that of four years ago, as the same party controls the White House and the Senate. Mr. Trump has also said nine justices are needed if the Supreme Court is tasked with deciding the outcome of the presidential election, which it did in 2000.

Barrett, a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, will join the Supreme Court as it prepares to hear arguments in a blockbuster dispute on the future of the Affordable Care Act on November 10. Her views on the Obama-era health care law were a central area of focus for Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, who claimed she would likely vote to kill Obamacare.

Barrett’s thoughts on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion, were also scrutinized by Democrats on the panel. She also declined to commit to recusing from any case stemming from the 2020 presidential election that ends up before the Supreme Court.

Barrett’s appointment to the high court will widen its conservative majority to 6-3. Before she was appointed to the 7th Circuit by Mr. Trump in 2017, she served as a law professor at Notre Dame Law School for 15 years.

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