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Senate Confirms Barrett       10/27 06:28

   Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court late Monday by a deeply 
divided Senate, with Republicans overpowering Democrats to install President 
Donald Trump's nominee days before the election and secure a likely 
conservative court majority for years to come.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court late 
Monday by a deeply divided Senate, with Republicans overpowering Democrats to 
install President Donald Trump's nominee days before the election and secure a 
likely conservative court majority for years to come.

   Trump's choice to fill the vacancy of the late liberal icon Ruth Bader 
Ginsburg potentially opens a new era of rulings on abortion, the Affordable 
Care Act and even his own election. Democrats were unable to stop the outcome, 
Trump's third justice on the court, as Republicans race to reshape the 
judiciary.

   Barrett, 48, will be able to start work Tuesday, her lifetime appointment as 
the 115th justice solidifying the court's rightward tilt.

   "This is a momentous day for America," Trump said at a primetime swearing-in 
event on the South Lawn at the White House. Justice Clarence Thomas 
administered the Constitutional Oath to Barrett before a crowd of about 200.

   Barrett told those gathered that she believes "it is the job of a judge to 
resist her policy preferences." She vowed, "I will do my job without any fear 
or favor."

   Monday's vote was the closest high court confirmation ever to a presidential 
election, and the first in modern times with no support from the minority 
party. The spiking COVID-19 crisis has hung over the proceedings. Vice 
President Mike Pence declined to preside at the Senate unless his tie-breaking 
vote was needed after Democrats asked him to stay away when his aides tested 
positive for COVID-19. The vote was 52-48, and Pence's vote was not necessary.

   Voting to confirm this nominee should make every single senator proud," said 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, fending off "outlandish" criticism in a 
lengthy speech. During a rare weekend session he declared that Barrett's 
opponents "won't be able to do much about this for a long time to come."

   Barrett, a federal appeals court judge from Indiana, is expected to take the 
judicial oath administered by Chief Justice John Roberts in a private ceremony 
Tuesday at the court to begin participating in proceedings.

   Underscoring the political divide during the pandemic, the Republican 
senators, most wearing masks, sat in their seats as is tradition for landmark 
votes, and applauded the outcome, with fist-bumps. Democratic senators emptied 
their side, heeding party leadership's advice to not linger in the chamber. A 
Rose Garden event with Trump to announce Barrett's nomination last month ended 
up spreading the virus, including to some GOP senators who have since returned 
from quarantine.

   Pence's presence would have been expected for a high-profile moment. But 
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and his leadership team said it would 
not only violate virus guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention, "it would also be a violation of common decency and courtesy."

   Democrats argued for weeks that the vote was being improperly rushed and 
insisted during an all-night Sunday session it should be up to the winner of 
the Nov. 3 election to name the nominee.

   Speaking near midnight Sunday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called the 
vote "illegitimate" and "the last gasp of a desperate party."

   Several matters are awaiting decision just a week before Election Day, and 
Barrett could be a decisive vote in Republican appeals of orders extending the 
deadlines for absentee ballots in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

   The justices also are weighing Trump's emergency plea for the court to 
prevent the Manhattan District Attorney from acquiring his tax returns. And on 
Nov. 10, the court is expected to hear the Trump-backed challenge to the 
Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Just before the Senate voted, the court sided 
with Republicans in refusing to extend the deadline for absentee ballots in 
Wisconsin.

   Trump has said he wanted to swiftly install a ninth justice to resolve 
election disputes and is hopeful the justices will end the health law known as 
"Obamacare."

   In a statement, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tied Barrett's 
nomination to the court to the Republican effort to pull down the Affordable 
Care Act. He called her confirmation "rushed and unprecedented" and a stark 
reminder to Americans that "your vote matters."

   During several days of public testimony before the Senate Judiciary 
Committee, Barrett was careful not to disclose how she would rule on any such 
cases.

   She presented herself as a neutral arbiter and suggested, "It's not the law 
of Amy." But her writings against abortion and a ruling on "Obamacare" show a 
deeply conservative thinker.

   Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, 
praised the mother of seven as a role model for conservative women. "This is 
historic," Graham said.

   Republicans focused on her Catholic faith, criticizing earlier Democratic 
questions about her beliefs. Graham called Barrett "unabashedly pro-life."

   At the start of Trump's presidency, McConnell engineered a Senate rules 
change to allow confirmation by a majority of the 100 senators, rather than the 
60-vote threshold traditionally needed to advance high court nominees over 
objections. That was an escalation of a rules change Democrats put in place to 
advance other court and administrative nominees under President Barack Obama.

   Republicans are taking a political plunge days from the Nov. 3 election with 
the presidency and their Senate majority at stake.

   Only one Republican -- Sen. Susan Collins, who is in a tight reelection 
fight in Maine -- voted against the nominee, not over any direct assessment of 
Barrett. Rather, Collins said, "I do not think it is fair nor consistent to 
have a Senate confirmation vote prior to the election."

   Trump and his Republican allies had hoped for a campaign boost, in much the 
way Trump generated excitement among conservatives and evangelical Christians 
in 2016 over a court vacancy. That year, McConnell refused to allow the Senate 
to consider then-President Barack Obama's choice to replace the late Justice 
Antonin Scalia, arguing the new president should decide.

   Most other Republicans facing tough races embraced the nominee who clerked 
for the late Scalia to bolster their standing with conservatives. Sen. Thom 
Tillis, R-N.C., said in a speech Monday that Barrett will "go down in history 
as one of the great justices."

   But it's not clear the extraordinary effort to install the new justice over 
such opposition in a heated election year will pay political rewards to the GOP.

   Demonstrations for and against the nominee have been more muted at the 
Capitol under coronavirus restrictions.

   Democrats were unified against Barrett. While two Democratic senators voted 
to confirm Barrett in 2017 after Trump nominated the Notre Dame Law School 
professor to the appellate court, none voted to confirm her to the high court.

   In a display of party priorities, California Sen. Kamala Harris, the 
Democratic vice presidential nominee, returned to Washington from the campaign 
trail to join colleagues with a no vote.

   No other Supreme Court justice has been confirmed on a recorded vote with no 
support from the minority party in at least 150 years, according to information 
provided by the Senate Historical Office.

 
 
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