Senate votes to advance Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation
Senate Republicans have voted overwhelmingly to advance Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett towards final confirmation despite Democratic objections, just over a week before the presidential election.
Her confirmation on Monday was hardly in doubt, with the majority Republicans mostly united in support behind President Donald Trump’s pick.
The final vote was 51 to 48 in favour.
Democrats have been poised to keep the Senate in session into the night in attempts to stall, arguing the November 3 election winner should choose the nominee to fill the vacancy left by the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Republicans are excited by the chance to install a third Trump justice on the court, locking in a conservative majority for years to come.
Ms Barrett’s ascent opens up a potential new era of rulings on abortion, gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act.
A case against the Obama-era health law is scheduled to be heard November 10.
“The Senate is doing the right thing,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said, vowing to install Ms Barrett to the court by Monday.
The 51-48 vote launched 30 hours of Senate debate.
Two Republicans – Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and Susan Collins, of Maine – voted against advancing the nominee, and all Democrats who voted were opposed.
California Senator Kamala Harris, the vice-presidential nominee, missed the vote while campaigning in Michigan.
Vice-President Mike Pence would typically preside over the coming votes but after a close aide tested positive for Covid-19 it is unclear whether he will fulfil his role for the landmark vote.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the Trump administration’s drive to install Ms Barrett during the coronavirus crisis shows “the Republican Party is willing to ignore the pandemic in order to rush this nominee forward”.
The conservative judge picked up crucial backing on Saturday from Ms Murkowski, one of the last GOP holdouts against filling the seat in the midst of a White House election and with more than 50 million people already having voted.
Ms Murkowski said she disliked the rush towards confirmation but supported Mr Trump’s choice of Barrett for the high court.
She said will vote against the procedural steps but ultimately join GOP colleagues in confirming Ms Barrett.
“While I oppose the process that has led us to this point, I do not hold it against her,” Ms Murkowski said.
Now the only Republican expected to vote against Ms Barrett is Ms Collins, who faces a tight re-election in Maine.
She has said she will not vote for the nominee so close to the election.
Mr McConnell noted the political rancour but defended his handling of the process.
He scoffed at the Democrats’ “horror stories” about the judge’s conservative qualifications.
Ms 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”.