In Partisan Vote, Amy Coney Barrett Confirmed as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Replacement on U.S. Supreme Court

Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed as a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, filling the vacancy created by the death of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Shortly after her confirmation by the U.S. Senate on October 26, 2020, Justice Clarence Thomas administered the oath of office to Barrett in an outdoor ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.

Barrett’s confirmation came just 30 days after her nomination, the shortest period between nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice since the unanimous confirmation of Justice John Paul Stevens in 1975. But unlike the broad consensus accompanying Stevens’ ascension to the Court, Barrett was confirmed by a 52-48 party-line vote amidst charges of court-stacking by conservative lawmakers. Senator Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to vote against the confirmation.

Barrett is the third justice President Donald Trump has appointed to the Supreme Court, solidifying a 6-3 conservative majority on the Court and shifting the Court farther to the right. The president lauded the confirmation — which came just eight days before a presidential election in which court challenges to mail and absentee voting, voter suppression, and voter intimidation are expected to reach the Court — calling it “a momentous day for America.”

Democrats and social justice advocates blasted the confirmation as a subversion of American democracy, contrasting it with the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. At that time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) justified blocking Garland’s appointment on the grounds that the decision on who fills an election-year Court vacancy should be left to the voters.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) derided the expedited confirmation process as a “cynical power grab.” “[T]here is no escaping this glaring hypocrisy,” he said. “[N]o tit-for-tat convoluted, distorted version of history will wipe away the stain that will exist forever with this Republican majority and with this Republican leader.”

In a statement released to the media, American Constitution Society President Russ Feingold called Barrett’s confirmation “an unprecedented power grab … [that] has delegitimized and damaged the United States Supreme Court.”

“The Right has essentially captured our courts,” Feingold said, accusing Republicans of a “ruthless court packing scheme.”

The Senate, led by McConnell, voted to terminate debate on Barrett’s confirmation on Sunday. Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Collins were the only Republicans to not vote for cloture. Previously, Democrats had boycotted the confirmation process in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Although Vice President Mike Pence had planned to be present for Barrett’s swearing-in ceremony, he attended remotely after multiple members of his staff tested positive for the coronavirus.

Sources

Seung Min Kim, Senate con­firms Barrett to Supreme Court, cement­ing its con­ser­v­a­tive major­i­ty, Washington Post, October 26, 2020; Lindsay Wise and Jess Bravin, Amy Coney Barrett Sworn In as Supreme Court Justice, Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2020; Jennifer Haberkorn, Amy Coney Barrett con­firmed to Supreme Court by GOP sen­a­tors, Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2020; Barbara Sprunt, Amy Coney Barrett Confirmed To Supreme Court, Takes Constitutional Oath, NPR, October 26, 2020; News Release, Feingold Denounces Unprecedented Power Grab’ With Barrett’s Confirmation, American Constitution Society, October 26, 2020; Tucker Higgins, A Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion before Election Day would be quick, but not unprece­dent­ed, CNBC, September 252020.