Patrick Semansky/ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON – Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States was upheld by a deeply divided Senate on Monday evening, with Republicans having the upper hand over Democrats to install President Donald Trump’s candidate days before the election and secure a likely conservative majority in court for years to come.
President Trump’s decision to fill the vacant post of late progressive judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg could be the starting point for a series of new decisions on abortion, health insurance and even his own re-election. Democrats have been unable to prevent Mr Trump from appointing a third judge to the nation’s highest court as Republicans attempt to reshape the justice system in their favor.
Amy Coney Barrett is 48, and her lifetime appointment will strengthen the Supreme Court’s right-wing lean.
It is the first time that a judge’s confirmation at the country’s highest court has taken place so close to a presidential election, and the first in modern times not to gain support from the minority party in the Senate. The growing COVID-19 crisis has loomed over the debates. Vice President Mike Pence’s office said on Monday he would not chair the Senate session unless his decisive vote is needed, after Democrats asked him to stay away because some of his aides have tested positive for COVID-19. The vote ended up being 52 to 48, and Mr. Pence’s vote was not necessary.
With Ms. Barrett’s appointment confirmed, Donald Trump presided over the prime-time White House swearing-in ceremony. Justice Clarence Thomas swore in his new colleague.
“The vote to confirm this candidate should make every senator proud,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, dismissing criticism out of hand in a long speech. In a rare session over the weekend, he said Ms Barrett’s opponents “won’t be able to do much about this for a long time.”
Democrats have argued for weeks that the confirmation vote was rushed and reiterated, during a session that lasted all night Sunday, that the choice of the new judge should go to the winner of the November 3 election.
Speaking around midnight Sunday, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said the vote was “illegitimate” and represented “the last breath of a desperate party.”
The Supreme Court is considering several cases within a week of voting, and Justice Barrett’s vote could be decisive in Republican appeals on orders extending postal voting deadlines in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
The justices are also weighing President Trump’s lawyers’ appeal for the Supreme Court to prevent the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his tax returns. And on November 10, the court is expected to hear the challenge to the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.
Donald Trump has already said he wants to quickly install a ninth judge to resolve electoral disputes and has said he hopes judges will end the health care law known as “Obamacare”.
WATCH: Judge Barrett will be here for a long time, says Trump