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The U.S. Senate confirmed federal appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a seat on the Supreme Court in a 52-48 vote late Monday.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine joined the entire Democratic caucus voting against Barrett's confirmation. Collins said she would not vote for Barrett’s confirmation because of the proximity of the vote to next week’s presidential election.
According to the AP, no other Supreme Court justice has been confirmed on a recorded vote with no support from the minority party in at least 150 years.
Barrett is 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.
Chief Justice John Roberts administered the second of two oaths to Barrett in a private ceremony Tuesday at the Supreme Court. That followed a White House ceremony Monday evening during which Justice Clarence Thomas swore in Barrett.
“It's a privilege to be asked to serve my country in this office, and I stand here tonight truly honored and humbled,” Barrett said Monday. “Thanks also to the Senate for giving its consent to my appointment. I am grateful for the confidence you have expressed in me, and I pledge to you and to the American people that I will discharge my duties to the very best of my ability.”
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Democrats criticize nomination
Democrats 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 rushed and unprecedented confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as Associate Justice to the Supreme Court, in the middle of an ongoing election, should be a stark reminder to every American that your vote matters,” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in a statement Monday.
Trump praised Barrett on Monday as “one of our nation’s most brilliant legal scholars,” and said she will “make an outstanding justice on the highest court in our land.”
Barrett could potentially 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.
Upcoming high stakes court decisions
Barrett is set to 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. According to recent figures from the Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has more than 8.7 million confirmed cases and 225,730 deaths.
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.