The U.S. Senate is set to confirm federal appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a seat on the Supreme Court in a vote late Monday.
If confirmed, Barrett would be the third justice on the nine-member court to be nominated by President Donald Trump and significantly tip its ideological balance toward a 6-3 conservative majority.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine is the only Republican to say she would not vote for Barrett’s confirmation because of the proximity of the vote to next week’s presidential election.
Collins says either the Republican Trump or his Democratic challenger Joe Biden should make the court selection next year after one of them wins the election and is inaugurated to a new presidential term in January.
Democrats have opposed Barrett’s nomination, both objecting to her credentials and to the process of filling the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon, in such rapid fashion, a month after Trump nominated her.
Assuming she is confirmed, the White House is planning a Monday evening swearing-in ceremony for Barrett. Several people who attended a similar event when Trump nominated her September 26 later contracted coronavirus.
Democrats opposed to Barrett have argued that the decision of picking a nominee for the seat should have been left up to whichever candidate wins the presidential election, a stance Republicans held when there was an election-year vacancy in early 2016. Republicans then refused to consider Democratic President Barack Obama’s nomination of another appellate judge, Merrick Garland.
"The Senate is doing the right thing" in advancing Barrett’s confirmation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday. “We’re moving this nomination forward.”
The Senate voted 51-48 Sunday to end Democrats’ filibuster on Barrett’s nomination, starting a period of 30 hours of debate before the final vote.
“Senate Democrats are taking over the floor all night to fight this sham process by Senate Republicans,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said. “We will not stop fighting.”
Barrett could immediately hold a seat on the court to consider election disputes involving Trump, although it is unclear whether she might recuse herself since Trump named her to the court. She declined to say at her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee two weeks ago whether she will avoid hearing disputes over extended deadlines for voters to return mail-in ballots and other issues Republicans and Democrats are contesting.
Barrett almost assuredly would be among the justices hearing a new challenge November 10 on whether to invalidate the country’s Affordable Care Act, which Trump has sought to overturn.
The law, popularly known as Obamacare after the former president who championed its passage in 2010, is a measure that helps provide health care to millions of Americans. Its fate is a crucial concern for many people amid the surging number of new coronavirus cases in the United States.
Republicans have long argued that Obamacare costs taxpayers too much and gives government too much control over health care. The Republican-led Congress in 2017 eliminated the law’s mandate requiring that people buy health insurance if they could afford to do so. They now want the Supreme Court to invalidate the entire statute, saying that without that key insurance provision, the rest of the legislation is invalid.