Republicans advance Amy Coney Barrett nomination; Democrats stay away

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WASHINGTON — “This is a good day,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday morning, shortly before he and fellow Republicans voted to advance the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the full Senate. That vote will come on Monday and, barring dramatic developments, will make her the newest member of the Supreme Court.

Democrats did not share Graham’s view of the proceedings and abstained from the vote in a show of protest. In the seats where Democratic members of the committee would have ordinarily been seated were propped photographs of people who would be harmed if the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health care coverage to millions of Americans, were to be struck down.

Democrats argue that Barrett’s antipathy to the Obama health law was a primary reason for her nomination to the high court by President Trump following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September. Ginsburg was a reliable liberal, while Barrett is a staunch conservative. Her presence on the court is likely to foster a rightward shift on a plethora of matters, from corporate power to reproductive rights. 

“This process is the most rushed, the most illegitimate, the most hypocritical process of any Supreme Court nominee we have ever, ever seen,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, on Thursday. He argued that without any Democrats present, Republicans could not advance the controversial nominee to the full chamber for a final vote. It was a final attempt to halt the process, one he must have known would do little to slow Republicans’ zeal to see the Barrett nomination through.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett; and images of people who have been helped by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) occupy the seats of Democratic senators boycotting a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 22, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Hannah McKay/Pool/Getty Images)Judge Amy Coney Barrett; and images of people who have been helped by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) occupy the seats of Democratic senators boycotting a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 22, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Hannah McKay/Pool/Getty Images)
Images of people who have been helped by the Affordable Care Act occupy the seats of Democratic senators boycotting a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Thursday on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Hannah McKay/Pool/Getty Images)

Since the Senate is in Republican hands, as are its constituent committees, there was little Democrats could do on Thursday morning but show their objection. The final vote for Barrett was 12-0.

Neera Tanden, who runs the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress, said the entire confirmation process surrounding the 48-year-old appellate judge was evidence that Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s majority leader, “has broken the Senate, he has broken the Supreme Court, and in conjunction with President Donald Trump, he has broken our democracy.”

Republicans said the contentious Barrett confirmation process was, to the contrary, evidence of Democratic transgressions. “When it comes to the judiciary, abuse is their agenda,” said Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, charging progressives with the kind of “judicial activism” conservatives have long decried but are not themselves immune from practicing.

Barrett’s confirmation came as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leads Trump in most national and battleground-state polls, including an 11-point national lead in the latest Yahoo News/YouGov survey. In a “60 Minutes” clip released Thursday morning by CBS, Biden said that if elected, he would form a bipartisan commission to study reforms for the Supreme Court, including expanding the number of justices. 

Graham, himself locked in a surprisingly difficult reelection fight, celebrated the Thursday committee victory, bitterly won though it may have been. 

“We did it,” he said. “We did it. Judge Barrett is going to the floor.”

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