Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett cleared the SenateJudiciary Committee on Thursday in a unanimous but deeply partisan vote, with Republicans speeding her to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote Monday.
The committee vote was 12-0. Democrats boycotted the hearing to protest the Republicans’ rapid push to install Judge Barrett on the high court. In their seats, they placed photos of Americans they said would suffer if the Supreme Court rules Obamacare illegal in a case coming before the justices Nov. 10.
The protest was dramatic but futile.
“It is supremely ironic that our Democratic colleagues delivered through a temper tantrum what they should have delivered through a fair appraisal: a unanimous endorsement,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
The Kentucky Republican accused Democrats of bowing to left-wing activists, who have complained about any show of cooperation with Republicans during the confirmation process.
But Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Mr. McConnell had “defiled the Senate as an institution” by pushing the election-season confirmation, just four years after Mr. McConnell refused to allow action on President Obama’s nominee for a high court seat in an election year.
“This is the culmination of a decadeslong effort to skew the court to the far right,” he said.
If she is confirmed Monday, as expected, it will be the fastest confirmation for an associate justice since the 1970s.
“They want her on the bench for Election Day. I don’t think there is much mystery about it,” said Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law.
Democrats sought to slow the confirmation process by arguing that the winner of the presidential election should have the chance to fill the seat, just as Mr. McConnell said in 2016.
Democrats also said the rapid pace left them without enough time to review Judge Barrett‘s record thoroughly.
They hoped to use committee rules to scuttle Thursday’s vote. At least two members of the minority party were supposed to be present to have a voting quorum, but none of the committee‘s 10 Democrats attended the meeting.
Republicans said a quorum of the committee‘s 22 members were present, even if they were all Republicans. They also pointed to instances when Democrats controlled the committee and conducted votes even without two Republicans present, though Republicans did not raise objections.
As it was, without any Democrats present, nobody raised an objection.
“I regret we could not do it the normal way, but what I don’t regret is reporting her out of committee,” said Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. “I could not have lived with myself if I had denied her her day.”
He said Democrats changed the rules in 2013 when they used the “nuclear option” to defang the filibuster and allow most judges to be confirmed without having to clear a 60-vote threshold. Democrats’ goal at the time was to force some of Mr. Obama’s nominees into the powerful U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
“They started this, not me,” Mr. Graham said.
Judge Barrett sailed through her confirmation hearing without trouble. She rebuffed Democrats’ attempts to get her to reveal how she might decide abortion, election or health care cases that could come before the Supreme Court.
The Affordable Care Act case, slated for oral arguments Nov. 10, loomed particularly large, which was why Democrats placed photos of Obamacare customers in their empty seats Thursday.
They say she will vote to strike down the health care law. Judge Barrett, in a 2017 book review, criticized Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s decision upholding the law.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, was seen during the committee meeting taking a video of the empty seats with his smartphone.
Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, called it “performance art.”
“I suppose we should be grateful that a walkout is all the Democrats will do to Judge Barrett today. Not all nominees have been so lucky,” he said.
Two years ago, Democrats forced a second round of hearings after elevating unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault against Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that Democrats don’t have the votes to stop Judge Barrett‘s confirmation but will continue to raise flags about what she might do once confirmed.
“Between now and then, Democrats on this committee and across this caucus will continue to make the case about what is at stake for the American people when Judge Barrett is confirmed,” she said at a press conference outside the Capitol.
Protesters chanted during the Democrats’ press conference, “Trump-Pence out now.”
Liberal activists have expressed frustration with committee Democrats for their handling of Judge Barrett‘s confirmation hearings. They have been particularly angry at Ms. Feinstein, who capped off the hearings with a hug for Mr. Graham and praise for his stewardship.
U.S. Capitol Police arrested six people Thursday morning ahead of the committee‘s vote on charges of unlawfully demonstrating.
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