On Monday, a split Senate voted to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Republican senators managed to overcome left-wing opposition in confirming Barrett before the general election in November. In the 52-48 vote, all but one Republican—Sen. Susan Collins of Maine—voiced support for Barrett, whom conservatives have touted as a highly-qualified replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg.
According to The New York Times, Barrett’s ascension marks the first time in 151 years that a justice has been confirmed without receiving a vote from a single member of the minority party.
Barrett’s contentious confirmation—pushed through Congress at near-lightning speed—provides the high court with an overwhelmingly conservative majority.
President Donald Trump presided over Barrett’s swearing-in ceremony on Monday, calling the occasion “momentous.”
“This is a momentous day for America,” Trump said, “for the United States Constitution, and for the fair and impartial rule of law.”
“[Barrett] is one of our nation’s most brilliant legal scholars and she will make an outstanding justice on the highest court of our land,” Trump said.
The newly invested Justice Barrett seemed keen to address to concerns that she will serve as little more than extension of conservative interests in the Supreme Court, saying her position requires political impartiality and independent thinking.
“A judge declares independence not only from the Congress and the president, but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her,” Barrett said. “The judicial oath captures the essence of the judicial duty: the rule of law must always control.”
While Barrett and President Trump celebrated the day, Democratic leaders warned the justice’s quick nomination and confirmation—all of which took place scarcely a month and a half after Bader-Ginsburg’s death—poses a dire threat to the nation’s well-being. Barrett’s critics have observed that the former federal judge and law professor’s philosophy may lead to the eradication or limitation of abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act, and broad fixtures of electoral access.
Presidential contender and former Vice President Joe Biden said the “rushed and unprecedented” appointment is a “stark reminder to every American that your vote matters.”
“While panicked and erratic in mishandling the pandemic, Donald Trump has been crystal clear on one thing in the past four years,” Biden said. “He wants to tear down the Affordable Care Act.”
Similarly, vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris blasted Barrett’s confirmation as a “disgrace, not only because of what she will do when she gets on the bench, but because of the entire process.”
Democrats had previously argued that any confirmation hearing should wait until after the November 3rd election—the same argument Republicans made to successfully block former President Barack Obama from advancing his preferred nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.
However, with conservatives in control of Congress and the White House, Sen. McConnell reverted to his preferred style of power-at-all-costs politics.
“We don’t have any doubt,” McConnell said, “that if the shoe were on the other foot, they’d be confirming. You can’t win them all, and elections have consequences.”
McConnell has since adjourned the Senate until after Election Day, forestalling any hope of a coronavirus stimulus package passing Congress until after November 3rd.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, responded to McConnell’s claim of victory by pointing out the hypocrisy of his actions.
“You may win this vote, and Amy Coney Barrett may become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court,” Schumer said, “But you will never, never get your credibility back. And the next time the American people give Democrats a majority in this chamber, you will have forfeited the right to tell us how to run that majority.”
So far as Barrett goes, the New York Times notes that she managed to fly through confirmation process more or less unchallenged, refusing to reveal much of anything as to how she would approach legal issues of great political interest.
“Judge Barrett may have established herself as the Babe Ruth of saying pretty much nothing,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said on Monday.
But Republicans found some solace in what little Barrett has said, praising her outspoken opinions on women’s reproductive rights.
“The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett is truly history,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said on Monday. “This is the most openly pro-life judicial nominee to the Supreme Court in my lifetime. This is an individual who has been open in her criticism of that illegitimate decision, Roe v. Wade.”