A little over an hour after the vote, Barrett was sworn in during a ceremony at the White House as the 115th associate justice on the Supreme Court and the fifth woman to serve on the bench.
The full Senate, who worked through a rare weekend session, voted 52-48 largely along party lines to confirm Barrett onto the court. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the sole Republican to join all Democrats in voting against the nominee after Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) indicated over the weekend she would vote “yes” to confirm.
Her confirmation followed a 30-hour debate on the upper house floor that began on Oct. 25 after the nomination cleared a procedural hurdle, also largely on party lines, to limit debate.
Barrett was sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas, who administered the constitutional oath. The ceremony, which was held in the South Lawn with social distancing measures, was hosted by President Trump.
“This is a momentous day for America, for the United States Constitution, and for the fair and impartial rule of law,” Trump said. “Over the past few weeks, the entire world has seen Justice Barrett’s deep knowledge, tremendous poise, and towering intellect.”
Barrett also addressed the audience after she was sworn in, saying that, “It’s a privilege to be asked to serve my country and this office. And I stand here tonight truly honored and humbled.”
She spoke about the importance for federal judges to remain unbiased by their personal politics and policy preferences.
“It is the job of a judge to resist policy preferences. It would be a dereliction of duty for her to give into them. Federal judges don’t stand for election, thus they have no basis for claiming that her preferences reflect those of the people.
“This separation of duty is what makes the judiciary distinct among the three branches of government. A judge declares independence, not only from Congress and the president, but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her,” she added.
Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the judicial oath to Barrett during a private ceremony on Tuesday, the Supreme Court said in a statement. She would begin participating in the court’s work following that oath. A formal investiture ceremony will take place at a later date, the court added.
Prior to the confirmation vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered the final remarks to the floor, telling the Senate: “This evening, the Senate will render one of the most consequential judgments it can ever deliver. We will approve a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.
“This is one of the most brilliant, admired, and well-qualified nominees in our lifetime,” McConnell said of Barrett. “By any objective standard, colleagues, Judge Barrett deserves to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.”
Barrett, who was serving as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, is Trump’s third nominee to the top court, following the confirmation of Justices Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
Republicans had set a tight schedule to confirm Barrett before the election, drawing criticism from their Democratic colleagues, who argued that the winner of the election should select the nominee to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Democrats were also vigorously opposed to the nomination because they believe Barrett could imperil former President Barrack Obama’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is being challenged in a lawsuit currently pending before the Supreme Court. The confirmation would put Barrett on the bench in time to hear oral arguments on Nov. 10.
Barrett, who did not give hints during her confirmation hearings on how she would rule on cases, told senators that she has no animus or hostility toward the ACA.
“I’m not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” she told the committee.
Lacking the support needed to prevent the confirmation, Senate Democrats instead held an all-night session to protest against the Republicans’ move to proceed.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) railed against his Republican colleagues, accusing them of hypocrisy since they refused to vote on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland to replace late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 because it was too close to the election. McConnell had argued that it was appropriate to block Garland as, at the time, the Senate and the White House were held by different parties.
“After refusing a Democratic nominee to the Supreme Court because an election was eight months away, they will confirm a Republican nominee before an election that is eight days away,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
“Rather than accept the consequences of its own words and deeds, the Republican majority is lighting its credibility on fire. This hypocritical, 180-degree turn is spectacularly obvious to the American people,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) took issue with the nomination’s proximity to the election.
“I will not dispute that it’s the responsibility of this body to consider Justice Ginsburg’s replacement to the Supreme Court. I voted on more members of the Supreme Court than anybody in this body. But this is not how we should do it,” Leahy said. “Not during such a polarizing time for our country just one week from a presidential election, and after more than 57 million Americans have already voted.”
Barrett’s confirmation marks the end of a partisan battle to shape the future of the nation’s top court, which is now expected to have a solid conservative lean for years to come. During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett sought to present herself as a neutral and independent jurist.
She was asked for her views on a range of issues such as abortion, the ACA, climate change, and voting rights but was prudent in avoiding to express her opinions, invoking precedents and canons on judicial conduct instead.
Barrett, who was a professor at Notre Dame law school, has been repeatedly praised for her merits and qualifications. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who was initially considered a potential swing vote, expressed his support for the nominee on Oct. 26.
“She’s exceptionally intelligent, academically astute, and impeccably credentialed,” Romney said on the Senate floor. “She is a woman of unquestionable character and integrity, the presence of which is essential to our nation as the confidence of the court itself is in the balance.”