Senate Judiciary Republicans Advance Barrett's Nomination While Democrats Boycott Vote

Senate Judiciary Republicans Advance Barrett's Nomination While Democrats Boycott Vote
Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 14, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)
Janita Kan

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Oct. 22 to advance Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate floor despite a boycott of the vote by Democrats on the panel.

The Republican-controlled committee voted 12–0 to recommend Barrett; no Democrats were present.

"That was their choice. It will be my choice to vote the nominee out of committee," the committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Oct. 22. "We are not going to allow them to take over the committee. They made a choice not to participate."

Senate Democrats had said that they would boycott the committee's vote on Barrett. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic committee members said in a statement that they “will not grant ... any further legitimacy” to Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation.

Republicans' push to confirm Barrett to the nation's highest court comes weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election, drawing criticism from their Democratic colleagues who say that the winner of the election should select the nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Democrats have also taken issue over holding the proceedings during the pandemic as well as the Republicans’ tight schedule.

“This has been a sham process from the beginning,” Schumer and the other Democrats said in their Oct. 21 statement, accusing Republicans of “rushing to confirm a Supreme Court Justice,” to “take away health care from millions.”

"We will not grant this process any further legitimacy by participating in a committee markup of this nomination just 12 days before the culmination of an election that is already underway," Schumer said.

Judiciary Committee rules stipulate that 12 members have to be present to bring a matter to a floor vote, and that two people from the minority party need to be present “for the purpose of transacting business.” Republicans can meet the first requirement on their own if every Republican senator is present. However, the latter rule would require the presence of at least two Democrats.

However, Graham told "Fox & Friends" on Oct. 22 before the vote that he would waive the committee rule in order to report Barrett's nomination.

The full Senate is expected to begin considering Barrett's nomination on Oct. 23 with a final vote scheduled for Oct. 26. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that he has the votes to confirm the judge and will "stay on it until we [are] finished."

The only Republican senators who have said they wouldn't vote in favor of Barrett are Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). No Senate Democrat is expected to vote in favor of confirming Barrett.

The majority leader praised Barrett on Oct. 16 saying that the judge had "exhibited every bit of the intellectual brilliance, legal expertise, and open-minded judicial temperament that we need on the Supreme Court."

The committee's vote comes at the heel of four days of hearings during which senators questioned Barrett and examined her qualifications and record. Members of the committee grilled her on a range of issues that included abortion, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), voting rights, climate change, and LGBTQ rights, among other social issues. Barrett largely refused to express her personal views by invoking precedents and rules governing judicial conduct.

Senate Democrats spent a vast amount of time during the hearing presenting Barrett as a threat to health care for Americans. They were unified in attempting to build a case that Barrett wouldn’t hesitate to overturn the ACA, also known as Obamacare, in an upcoming Supreme Court case. Barrett could be confirmed in time to join the court to hear that case, which is scheduled for oral arguments on Nov. 10.

However, Barrett repeatedly expressed during the hearings that she has no animus or hostility toward the ACA.

Following Barrett's nomination, the judge was targeted in several lengthy exposes by the media, which aims to cast her religious views in a negative light. Some reports have targeted Barrett’s membership with the People of Praise, a Christian community organization. Meanwhile, a recent Associated Press report focused on Barrett's time serving on the board of private Christian schools that AP said have "anti-gay" policies.
These attempts to smear Barrett come against a backdrop where the then-professor fielded multiple questions about her Catholic faith from senators during her 2017 confirmation hearing for her nomination to the 7th Circuit Court.

The stories have prompted Republican lawmakers to denounce the "ongoing attacks" on her faith as "a disgrace."

"These euphemisms fool no one. United States senators are suggesting that Judge Barrett is too Christian or the wrong kind of Christian to be a good Judge,” McConnell said earlier this month.

“Every Supreme Court Justice in history has possessed personal views. Judges have a job to do and they swear to do it impartially. It is the definition of discrimination to assert that Justice Barrett’s particular faith makes her uniquely unqualified for this promotion," he added.

Mimi Nguyen-Ly and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.