Unlike her introduction ceremony in September, which became a “super-spreader event” in the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, most of the attendees in the crowd on the South Lawn wore masks and sat in chairs that were spread apart.
The White House played up the pageantry, unusual for a Supreme Court justice. With the Marine Band playing and large American flags spread on the White House facade, the event had the feel of a victory lap for Trump, who is trying to overcome a deficit in the polls in the week before the election. He largely stuck to a Teleprompter script before Barrett was sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas.
“A judge declares independence not only from Congress and the president, but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her,” Barrett, who was not wearing a mask, said in her brief remarks. She then posed with Trump from the south balcony of the White House, the same spot where the president stood for a photo op after returning from the hospital for COVID-19 treatment.
None of the other justices were present for the event.
PREVIOUSLY, 5:17 PM PT: Judge Amy Coney Barrett won Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court on Monday, moving the high court even farther to the right on the cusp of a presidential election.
Barrett is expected to be sworn in at the White House at a ceremony later in the evening.
The vote was 52-48. All Democrats and independents voted against the nomination, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
Just minutes before the vote, the existing members on the court voted 5-3 to block a proposal in Wisconsin that would have extended the deadline for the state to receive ballots for up to six days after the election, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3. Now they will have to arrive by Election Day to be counted.
A conservative in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia, her mentor, Barrett went through a confirmation hearing refusing to take a firm position on a hotbed of issues, including the fate of the Affordable Care Act, the future of Roe v. Wade and even on same-sex marriage.
Barrett, 48, has been a judge on the Court of Appeals since 2017. Before that, she had a long tenure as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame.
She will succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the leading liberal voice on the court who died on Sept. 18. Barrett is the fifth woman confirmed to the court.
Ginsburg told her granddaughter days before she died that it was her wish that her successor be chosen by the next president. But President Donald Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans went forward with filling the seat anyway, reneging on their 2016 policy that a vacancy should not be filled during a presidential election year.
Some Democrats are calling for the court to be expanded, given what they see as Republican hypocrisy. Earlier on Monday, Joe Biden told reporters that, if elected, he wants to form a commission to make a recommendation on the courts, even though he said that he wasn’t a fan of the idea of so-called “court packing.”
Republicans sat in their seats, wearing masks, during the roll call, while Democrats instead walked to the floor to vote but did not stay.
Democrats have focused their opposition to the potential impact that Barrett’s confirmation will have on the future of the Affordable Care Act. The legality of the healthcare law will come before the court on Nov. 10.
“The American people will suffer the consequences of Judge Barrett’s far-right, out-of-the-mainstream views for generations,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the floor shortly before the vote.
Schumer said that Republicans had engaged in a “theft” of two Supreme Court seats using contradictory criteria. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to hold hearings for President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, after Scalia’s death in February 2016.
Schumer acknowledged that Republicans might have won the Barrett confirmation but said: “You will never, ever, get your credibility back. The next time the American people give Democrats a majority in this chamber, you will have forfeited your right to tell us how to run that majority.”
On the floor, McConnell talked up Barrett’s qualifications. He blamed Democrats for the politicization of the judicial confirmation process. “I voted for both Ginsburg and Breyer,” McConnell said, referring to two nominees of Bill Clinton. “Seems like a long time ago.”
“Elections have consequences,” McConnell said, pushing pack against the idea that Barrett’s confirmation was somehow illegitimate.
Barrett’s confirmation gave Trump his third Supreme Court appointment, something he plans to emphasize in the final week of the presidential race.
The Democrats’ vice presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), wrote on Twitter after the confirmation, “Today Republicans denied the will of the American people by confirming a Supreme Court justice through an illegitimate process—all in their effort to gut the Affordable Care Act and strip health care from millions with pre-existing conditions. We won’t forget this.”
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