The U.S. Senate voted largely along party lines Monday night to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court, securing what many view as a 6-3 conservative majority on the nation’s highest court for several years to come.
The vote came despite widespread resistance among Democratic politicians who opposed appointing a justice this close to the Nov. 3 election. Barrett was confirmed in a 52-48 vote; every Republican except Susan Collins of Maine supported the nominee. President Donald Trump nominated Barrett one month ago on Sept. 26.
Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet spoke on the Senate floor Sunday night, decrying the circumstances surrounding Barrett’s nomination and attacking Republican leadership, saying they were undermining the impartiality of the Supreme Court and ignoring the Senate’s role to advise and consent in judicial nominations.
“The Senate is now about to drag the Supreme Court down to its own decadent level by turning it into just another politicized body, distrusted – for good reason – by the people it’s meant to serve,” Bennet said in his speech. “In this confirmation proceeding ... the majority renounced its duty to advise and consent by giving their consent before the president ever chose a nominee.”
Bennet was one of many Democrats who denounced Republican efforts to nominate and confirm a Supreme Court justice after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., led his party in calling the process “illegitimate.”
Democrats have also accused Republicans of hypocrisy, pointing to the proximity of the election and to Republicans’ refusal to bring forward President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat after Scalia’s death in February 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said at the time that the vacancy should remain until the election was decided.
However, Senate Republicans have said they are merely fulfilling the Senate’s constitutional role in evaluating and confirming Barrett, and have pointed to several other cases of faster-than-normal confirmations for justices when the Senate and presidency are held by the same party.
Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner voted for Barrett’s confirmation to the Seventh Court of Appeals and supported her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. He celebrated Barrett’s confirmation.
“I am confident that Justice Amy Coney Barrett will protect the Constitution, uphold the rule of law, and refuse to legislate from the bench,” Gardner said. “Today, I was proud to vote to confirm this exceptionally qualified jurist who respects the proper role of the judiciary, and I look forward to her service to our country on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Because Republicans hold a 53-seat majority and there were never more than two Republicans who said they did not support a vote, the nomination was able to move through committee and be brought to a floor vote with little ability for Democrats to impede it.
Last week, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee boycotted a vote to advance Barrett’s nomination out of committee onto the Senate floor. That vote succeeded 12-0 as none of the 10 Democrats in the committee were present.
Instead, Democratic seats held photos of people they said could lose health care if the Affordable Care Act is struck down by the Supreme Court; Democrats have said that Barrett could be a deciding vote in lawsuits against the ACA. The court, with Barrett officially sworn in, is set to hear arguments on a case about the ACA in November.
The boycott was one of a few moves that Democrats took to attempt to delay and undermine the confirmation process, but because of the Republican majority, those efforts have largely been symbolic.
Now, focus turns to the future of the court; some Democrats have called for an expansion of the Supreme Court in response to a confirmation process that they decried as illegitimate. Other Democrats have refused to directly support expanding the court, but have expressed openness to reforming it.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has refused to say whether he will support expanding the number of justices, but said that if he is elected, he will appoint a bipartisan commission to evaluate court reforms.
Republicans have sought to use that against Democrats by accusing them on the campaign trail of being in favor of court-packing, but Democrats have returned fire by saying Republicans’ refusal to vote on Obama’s court nominees in 2016 and rapid push to confirm Barrett are examples of court packing themselves.
Justice Clarence Thomas administered the Constitutional Oath to Barrett before a crowd of about 200 on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday night. Barrett will be able to participate in the court after taking the judicial oath administered by Chief Justice John Roberts in a private ceremony at the court Tuesday.
She will likely begin work on the Supreme Court this week.
John Purcell is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. The Associated Press contributed to this report.