Politics

The Senate votes to verify Amy Coney Barrett within the Supreme Courtroom

A split Senate voted Monday to reassign Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a life term on the Supreme Court, ending a fierce battle over the partisan makeup of the judiciary that came in the midst of an unusually explosive presidential election.

The vote took place between 52 and 48, with only Maine Senator Susan Collins breaking with Republicans to vote against the confirmation.

The 48-year-old judge's elevation came just eight days before the final vote in the contest between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden. It offers Conservatives a 6-3 majority on the High Court, including three Trump picks.

Later that evening, Barrett took the first of two required oaths at an event at the White House. The oath was taken by Judge Clarence Thomas. Chief Justice John Roberts will take the second oath in a private ceremony on Tuesday.

Trump said at the event on the South Lawn of the White House that it was "an important day for America".

Prior to the vote, lawmakers argued over whether Barrett's views fell into the legal mainstream.

"It's as mainstream as it gets on our side of the aisle," said Lindsey Graham, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, R-S.C., In the Senate.

Chuck Schumer, Chairman of the Senate Minority, D-N.Y., Said in his own speech that Barrett had "far-right views, far outside the American mainstream, and those views are important".

Barrett's confirmation, virtually assured given the GOP's influence over the Senate, should shift the court's ideological balance to the right on issues such as gun rights, abortion, the economy, and the environment.

In the coming months, judges will also determine the fate of the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare], which will give tens of millions of Americans access to health insurance. The law case will be discussed on November 10, a week after the election.

Both Democrats and Republicans have suggested that the court could be asked to make its own choice, as it did in the 2000 race between President George Bush and Democrat Al Gore.

Experts have said the possibility of the election being decided in court has increased this year due to a spate of litigation related to changes to electoral rules resulting from the spreading Covid-19 pandemic.

When the Senate voted on Barrett's confirmation, the Supreme Court issued an order denying the Democrats' efforts to extend the deadline for postal ballot counting in the battlefield state of Wisconsin.

The possibility of a controversial election overshadowed Barrett's verification process.

Trump repeatedly urged Barrett to be confirmed in time to vote on such cases and urged Democrats to demand their rejection.

During the two-day questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month, Barrett agreed to carefully consider whether her participation in an electoral process would be inappropriate but declined to undertake to abstain.

The battle for Barrett's nomination was sparked last month after the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon who served on the Supreme Court for 27 years.

The replacement of Ginsburg with Barrett represents the most powerful ideological shift on the field since Liberal judge Thurgood Marshall was replaced by the conservative Thomas in 1991.

Trump and his allies in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Replaced Ginsburg immediately ahead of Election Day. Biden and the Democrats in Congress argued the process was a sham and pushed for Ginsburg's successor to be named by next week's election winner.

Schumer and others pointed to McConnell's 2016 refusal to hold hearings for President Barack Obama's candidate Merrick Garland at all during an election year.

Barrett's confirmation is the first to come this close to a presidential election. The vote took place after a historic number of early votes had been cast. More than 58 million Americans have already voted as people across the country flock to an early vote due to the coronavirus.

Ginsburg himself weighed out of the grave. In an unusual declaration of death, the 87-year-old said her "dearest wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

Republicans praised Ginsburg's career, but continued Barrett's verification process.

"Much of what we have done in the last four years will sooner or later be undone in the next election," said the Kentucky Republican from the Senate on Sunday evening. "There's not much you can do about it for a long time."

Barrett has been a professor at Notre Dame Law School since 2002 and served on the 7th Court of Appeals for three years. She worked for Justice Antonin Scalia, a Conservative hero, early in her career, and has said she shares his legal philosophy.

During their marathon hearings earlier this month, Barrett gave few direct responses, but reiterated her conservative nature of legal interpretation. She declared her independence from both the White House and Congress and said she would openly address cases, including the Obamacare dispute, if confirmed.

Democrats used the hearings to draw voters' attention to health care, arguing that Barrett's endorsement would doom the Affordable Care Act. Republicans, on the other hand, extolled Barrett's legal credentials and her personal background as a Catholic mother of seven.

"This is the first time in American history that we have nominated a woman who is outrageous for life and accepts her faith without apology," Graham said at the time

Progressives criticized Democrats on the committee for their handling of the hearings, and some urged Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the senior member, to resign.

After that, the Democrats cut their participation in the nomination process and boycotted the committee vote on Thursday to remove Barrett from the committee. Barrett passed an important full Senate procedural vote in a 51-48 vote on Sunday that saw no Democrat vote for her.

Two Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Susan Collins from Maine, sided with the Democrats on Sunday.

Murkowski and Collins have both said they are rejecting the seat of a new judiciary before election day.

However, on Monday, Murkowski voted to confirm Barrett after largely symbolic voting the day before.

"I believe the only way to get us back on track of proper nomination consideration is to rate Judge Barrett as we would like to be judged. In terms of their qualifications," Murkowski said Saturday.

"And we'll do that when that last question is before us. And if it is, I'll be a yes," she said.

Collins, facing a tough re-election campaign that continues to focus on her support for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's second nominee, in 2018, voted against Barrett's endorsement.

Vice President Mike Pence, who was due to lead the Senate hearings on Monday, stepped down from a number of his key advisors the day after a Covid-19 outbreak.

On Sunday, Pence had said he would not change his schedule, despite at least five of his aides testing positive, including his chief of staff, Marc Short, with whom he had been in close contact.

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