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Barrett confirmed as justice

WASHINGTON — Amy

Coney Barrett was confi rmed

to the Supreme Court late

Monday by a deeply divided

Senate, Republicans

overpowering Democrats

to install President Donald

Trump’s nominee days before

the election and secure

a likely conservative court

majority for years to come.

Trump’s choice to fi ll the

vacancy of the late liberal

icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg

potentially opens a new era

of rulings on abortion, the

Affordable Care Act and

even his own election. Democrats

were unable to stop

the outcome, Trump’s third

justice on the court, as Republicans

race to reshape the

judiciary.

Barrett is 48, and her

lifetime appointment as the

115th justice will solidify the

court’s rightward tilt.

Monday’s 52-48 vote was

the closest high court confi rmation

ever to a presidential

election, and the fi rst in modern

times with no support

from the minority party. The

spiking COVID-19 crisis has

hung over the proceedings.

Vice President Mike Pence’s

offi ce said Monday he would

not preside at the Senate session

unless his tie-breaking

vote was needed after Democrats

asked him to stay away

when his aides tested positive

for COVID-19. His vote

was not necessary.

With Barrett’s confirmation

assured, Trump was

expected to celebrate with a

primetime swearing-in event

at the White House. Justice

Clarence Thomas was set to

administer the Constitutional

Oath, a senior White House

offi cial said.

“This is something to

be really proud of and feel

good about,” Senate Majority

Leader Mitch McConnell

said during a rare weekend

session Sunday ahead of voting.

He scoffed at the “apocalyptic” warnings from critics that

the judicial branch was becoming

mired in partisan politics and declared

that “they won’t be able to

do much about this for a long time

to come.”

Pence’s presence presiding for

the vote would have been expected,

showcasing the Republican priority.

But Senate Democratic leader

Chuck Schumer and his leadership

team said it would not only violate

virus guidelines of the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention, “it

would also be a violation of common

decency and courtesy.”

Some GOP senators tested positive

for the coronavirus following

a Rose Garden event with Trump

to announce Barrett’s nomination

last month, but they have since

said they have been cleared by their

doctors from quarantine. Pence was

not infected and his office said the

vice president tested negative for

the virus Monday.

Democrats argued for weeks

that the vote was being improperly

rushed and insisted during an

all-night Sunday session it should

be up to the winner of the Nov.

3 election to name the nominee.

However, Barrett, a federal appeals

court judge from Indiana, is

expected to be seated swiftly, and

begin hearing cases.

Speaking near midnight Sunday,

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.,

called the vote “illegitimate” and

“the last gasp of a desperate party.”

Several matters are awaiting decision

just a week before Election

Day, and Barrett could be a decisive

vote in Republican appeals of

orders extending the deadlines for

absentee ballots in North Carolina

and Pennsylvania.

The justices also are weighing

Trump’s emergency plea for the

court to prevent the Manhattan

District Attorney from acquiring

his tax returns. And on Nov. 10,

the court is expected to hear the

Trump-backed challenge to the

Obama-era Affordable Care Act.

Trump has said he wanted to

swiftly install a ninth justice to resolve

election disputes and is hopeful

the justices will end the health

law known as “Obamacare.”

During several days of public

testimony before the Senate Judiciary

Committee, Barrett was careful

not to disclose how she would

rule on any such cases.

She presented herself as a neutral

arbiter and suggested, “It’s not

the law of Amy.” But her writings

against abortion and a ruling on

“Obamacare” show a deeply conservative

thinker.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,

the chairman of the Judiciary

Committee, praised the mother of

seven as a role model — “a conservative

woman who embraces

her faith.” Republicans focused on

her Catholic religion, dismissing

earlier Democratic questions about

her beliefs. Graham said Barrett is

“unabashedly pro-life, but she’s not

going to apply ‘the law of Amy’ to

all of us.”

At the start of Trump’s presidency,

McConnell engineered a

Senate rules change to allow confirmation

by a majority of the 100

senators, rather than the 60-vote

threshold traditionally needed to

advance high court nominees over

objections. That was an escalation

of a rules change Democrats put in

place to advance other court and

administrative nominees under

President Barack Obama.

Republicans are taking a political

plunge by pushing for confirmation

days from the Nov. 3 election

with the presidency and their Senate

majority at stake.

Only one Republican — Sen.

Susan Collins, who is in a tight

reelection fight in Maine — voted

against the nominee, not over

any direct assessment of Barrett.

Rather, Collins said, “I do not think

it is fair nor consistent to have a

Senate confirmation vote prior to

the election.”

Trump and his Republican allies

had hoped for a campaign boost, in

much the way Trump generated excitement

among conservatives and

evangelical Christians in 2016 over

a court vacancy. That year, McConnell

refused to allow the Senate

to consider then-President Barack

Obama’s choice to replace the late

Justice Antonin Scalia, arguing the

new president should decide.

Most other Republicans facing

tough races embraced the nominee

to bolster their standing with

conservatives. Sen. Thom Tillis,

R-N.C., said in a speech Monday

that Barrett will “go down in history

as one of the great justices.”

But it’s not clear the extraordinary

effort to install the new justice

over such opposition in a heated

election year will pay political rewards

to the GOP.

Demonstrations for and against

the nominee have been more muted

at the Capitol under coronavirus restrictions.

Democrats are unified against

Barrett. While two Democratic

senators voted to confirm Barrett

in 2017 after Trump nominated the

Notre Dame Law School professor

to the appellate court, none voted to

confirm her to the high court.

In a display of party priorities,

California Sen. Kamala Harris, the

vice presidential nominee, returned

to Washington from the campaign

trail to join colleagues with a no

vote.

No other Supreme Court justice

has been confirmed on a recorded

vote with no support from the minority

party in at least 150 years,

according to information provided

by the Senate Historical Office.

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