Over Democratic Fury, Republicans Push Barrett to Brink of Confirmation

WASHINGTON — A sharply divisive drive to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before Election Day wound on Sunday toward its expected end, as Senate Republicans overcame Democratic protests to limit debate and set up a final confirmation vote for Monday.

Two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined united Democrats in an attempt to filibuster President Trump’s nominee, and Democrats once again planned a flurry of parliamentary tactics to protest a vote that they say should wait until after the election. But Republicans had the simple majority they needed to blow past them, setting up the vote to confirm Judge Barrett just eight days before the election and a month to the day after she was chosen.

The tally was 51 to 48. Republicans were expected to win back Ms. Murkowski’s vote on Monday, though not that of Ms. Collins.

Republicans, who have been on a mad dash to fill the vacancy caused by the death last month of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, planned to keep the Senate in session overnight to speed things up further. Thirty hours must elapse between the vote to limit debate and final confirmation. For an aging body that prefers light working hours, the unusual all-nighter only underscored what was at stake.

Judge Barrett’s ascension would lock in a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the court, a Republican accomplishment decades in the making that could reshape abortion rights, immigration law, and corporate and government power, as well as put a check on Democrats should they win back the White House and Senate next week. It could also have immediate implications as the court continues to act on emergency voting-related cases before the Nov. 3 balloting.

“It’s a big deal for the president,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s one of his legacies.”

Democrats took unusual steps to try to color the confirmation process as an illegitimate power grab by Republicans, who had blockaded a Supreme Court nominee from President Barack Obama in 2016, citing the coming election that year. Democrats insisted a quorum be present to conduct any business, unusually drawing most senators into the chamber at once. But with the election at hand, their goal was not so much to stop the confirmation as to use it as a rallying cry for their voter base.

Partisan fights over the direction of the federal courts have escalated rapidly in recent years, as Congress has ceased to regularly legislate and both parties have increasingly looked to the courts to enact their visions for the country.

But the confirmation wars appeared to be headed to a new, bitter low on Monday. For the first time in recent memory, not a single member of the minority party, in this case the Democrats, was expected to vote for confirmation. A single Democrat, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, had supported Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in 2018.

Democrats oppose Judge Barrett ideologically, but their opposition has little to do with the nominee herself. With more than 50 million votes already cast, Democrats have insisted the winner of the election should be allowed to fill the seat. They have accused Republicans of rank hypocrisy for rushing to fill it despite prior assurances by several senior Republicans that they will not do so if a vacancy opened in an election year and despite Republicans’ insistence in 2016 that voters be given a say in who fills the seat.

Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski, two moderates who have frequently bucked their party, have shared those concerns, warning that to fill the seat now will erode the legitimacy of the court and the Senate.

At 48, Judge Barrett would be the youngest justice on the bench, poised to put an imprint on the law for decades to come. An appeals court judge in Chicago and a Notre Dame law professor, she has been presented as an heir to former Justice Antonin Scalia, a towering figure of the court’s conservative wing for decades. Judge Barrett clerked for Justice Scalia and shares his strict judicial philosophy.

In her confirmation hearings this month, Judge Barrett repeatedly described herself as a true independent with “no agenda.” Neither party in the Senate, though, appears to believe she will be anything but a reliably conservative vote based on her academic writing and appeals court rulings. If that bears out, Judge Barrett would be the ideological opposite of her predecessor, Justice Ginsburg, who was the leader of the court’s now-diminished liberal wing.

Democrats have used that prospect to fire up their liberal base ahead of Election Day. Mr. Trump has promised to appoint justices who would chip away at or overturn abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade, and Democrats have spent weeks warning that Judge Barrett would do just that. They also say she would rule against the Affordable Care Act when the court hears a challenge to Democrats’ signature health care law just a week after the election.

Sunday’s anticipated parliamentary tactics from Democrats were nothing new. For weeks now, they have deployed the few tools at the minority party’s disposal to try to highlight their case, including boycotting a vote on the nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday, another first.

But inside the chamber, the outcome has not been in doubt. Republicans, compelled by the chance of installing a third Trump-nominated justice, had already lined up 51 of their members in support of confirmation. Then on Saturday, Ms. Murkowski said she would be a 52nd. Despite her opposition to moving forward on Sunday, Ms. Murkowski had already conceded that she had lost the procedural argument and said she would vote on Monday to elevate Judge Barrett.

Source: Read Full Article