The United States Senate has advanced President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in a near party-line vote, all but assuring her confirmation, which is expected on Monday.
Trump had nominated Barrett on September 26 to fill the seat vacated after the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The announcement came amid a battle between Democrats and Republicans over whether a new justice should be appointed so close to elections on November 3.
Republicans, who have a 53-47 majority in the Senate, promised to move forward with the confirmation, with only two senators breaking from the party’s ranks and opposing starting the proceedings so close to the election. On Sunday, the 100-seat Senate voted 51-48 to limit debate on the nomination, setting up the final vote expected to take place on Monday evening.
On Saturday, following a four-day Judiciary Committee Hearing, one opposing Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said while she did not support how the process was carried out, she would vote to confirm Barrett.
The only Republican currently expected to vote against Barrett is Susan Collins, who faces a tight re-election in Maine. She has said she would not vote for the nominee so close to elections.
Barrett’s confirmation would create a 6-3 conservative majority on the country’s top court, potentially beckoning a new era of rulings on social issues like abortion, gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. A case against the health law is scheduled to be heard on November 10.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has defended his handling of the process, despite opposing the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice under President Barack Obama in 2016.
“Our recent debates have been heated, but curiously talk of Judge Barrett’s actual credentials or qualifications are hardly featured,” McConnell said on Saturday, adding Barrett was one of the most “impressive” nominees for public office “in a generation”.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer has called the process a “sham” and has called on Republicans to make a last-minute withdrawal of Barrett’s nomination “until after the election”.
Barrett was a professor at Notre Dame Law School when she was tapped by Trump in 2017 for an appeals court opening. Two Democrats joined at that time to confirm her, but none is expected to vote for her in the days ahead.
Barrett, 48, presented herself in public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a neutral arbiter and at one point suggested, “It’s not the law of Amy”. But Democrats have said Barrett’s past writings against abortion and a ruling on “Obamacare” show a deeply conservative thinker.
By pushing for Barrett’s ascension so close to the election, Trump and his Republican allies are counting on a campaign boost.
Vice President Mike Pence would typically preside over the coming votes, but after a close aide tested positive for the COVID-19, it was unclear whether he would fulfil his role for the vote.