Senate Confirms Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court
How do you feel about the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court?
What’s the story?
- The Senate voted 52-48 on Monday to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, filling the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
- Barrett’s elevation from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court makes her the 115th justice in the Court’s history, the fifth woman to serve on the nation’s highest court, and the first mother of school-age children to serve as a justice.
- The vote went along party-lines as no Democrats voted in favor, which makes Barrett’s the first Supreme Court appointment since 1869 to be confirmed without bipartisan support. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was the lone Republican to vote no, citing her preference that the nomination vote be delayed until after the election.
- The confirmation process concluded 30 days after Barrett was nominated, which made the process the second fastest in the modern era. With only eight days remaining before the election, it also occurred closer to Election Day than any other Supreme Court confirmation in history.
- Barrett will take her constitutional oath in a ceremony Monday night at the White House administered by Justice Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice John Roberts will administer her judicial oath tomorrow to officially swear her in as a Supreme Court justice. She is expected to be on the bench next Monday when the Supreme Court convenes for its November argument session, which includes a high profile case related to the Affordable Care Act, and may participate in the justices’ conference scheduled for Friday.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke on the floor in favor of Judge Barrett's nomination, saying she would be "a woman of unparalleled ability and temperament on the Supreme Court." He added:
"We can take another historic step toward a judiciary that fulfills its role with excellence, but doesn't grasp after power that our constitutional system intentionally assigns somewhere else. And we can stand loud and clear that the United States Senate doesn't bow to intemperate threats. Voting to confirm this nominee should make every single senator proud."
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke against the nomination on the floor and accused Republicans of "thwarting the will of the American people." He added that, "Monday, October 26th, 2020. It will go down as one of the darkest days in the 231 years of the United States Senate."
How did Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination play out?
- After the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, 2020, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on September 26th. Barrett had been a finalist for the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, which was ultimately filled by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and has long been a fixture on Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee held four days of confirmation hearings regarding her nomination from Monday, October 12th to Thursday, October 15th. The first day was focused on opening statements, while the second and third days featured question and answer periods between committee members and Barrett, before the hearings concluded after the committee heard testimony from outside experts on the fourth day.
- The American Bar Association’s (ABA) federal judicial nomination review panel received input from 944 people in its investigation regarding Barrett’s integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament. The ABA’s investigation yielded substantial praise for the nomination and no negative commentary.
- The ABA concluded, “Judge Barrett meets the highest standards of integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament. It is the opinion of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary that Judge Barrett is “Well Qualified” to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.”
- The Senate Judiciary Committee held over Barrett’s nomination on the 15th, which postponed a vote for one week at the minority’s request as rules allow. Amid a boycott by Democratic senators, committee Republicans advanced Barrett’s nomination with a recommendation that she be confirmed on a 12-0 vote during a hearing on October 22nd.
- The Senate began floor debate the next day with a series of procedural votes, and on Sunday, October 25th, voted 51-48 to limit further debate on the nomination to 30 hours and set up a confirmation vote the evening of Monday, October 26th.
- Barrett was confirmed on a 52-48 vote that went mostly along party-lines. No Democrats voted in favor, making it the first successful Supreme Court appointment since 1869 to not receive any bipartisan support. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voted and cited her preference that the nomination wait until after the election for doing so. That concern also led Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to oppose procedural votes on the nomination despite voting in favor of Barrett’s confirmation.
- Barrett’s confirmation came 30 days after President Trump formally nominated her, which makes it the second fastest Supreme Court confirmation process in the modern era. Justice John Paul Stevens was confirmed by a Democratic Senate just 19 days after he was nominated by Gerald Ford in 1975.
- Barrett’s confirmation occurred closer to Election Day than any in history at only eight days beforehand. It surpassed Dwight Eisenhower’s recess appointment of Justice William Brennan 22 days before the election.
Who is Amy Coney Barrett?
- Barrett, 48, is a federal judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and will vacate that position once her Supreme Court appointment is finalized. In addition to serving on the bench, she has worked as a law professor at Notre Dame Law School since 2002, teaching civil procedure, constitutional law, and statutory interpretation.
- Barrett earned her undergraduate degree with honors from Rhodes College. She then studied law at Notre Dame Law School on a scholarship, where she was an executive editor of the law review and graduated first in her class in 1997.
- After law school, Barrett worked as a law clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals from 1997 to 1998. She then clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1998 to 1999. After her clerkships, she worked at a law firm in Washington, D.C. until 2002.
- Barrett is a practicing Catholic who grew up in Metairie, Louisiana, and is the oldest of seven siblings. She and her husband, Jesse, live in South Bend, Indiana, with their seven children, two of whom were adopted from Haiti and one of whom has special needs.
What is Barrett’s judicial history and philosophy?
- Barrett was nominated to the Seventh Circuit by President Trump in May 2017, and the Judiciary Committee held her confirmation hearing on September 6, 2017.
- One of the most notable moments occurred when Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) pressed Barrett on whether her Catholic beliefs would interfere with her ability to serve as a judge, telling the nominee that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that is a concern.” Feinstein’s line of questioning drew criticism as threatening to impose an unconstitutional “religious test” for office.
- Barrett sought to downplay the senator’s concerns by saying, “My personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear on the discharge of my duties as a judge… It is never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”
- After her nomination was advanced by the committee on a party-line vote, Barrett was confirmed on a 55-43 vote on October 31, 2017, becoming the first woman to occupy an Indiana seat on the circuit. All Republican senators voted for her confirmation, as did three Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), and then-Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) who lost reelection the following year.
- In terms of her legal philosophy, Barrett is an avowed originalist in the mold of the late Justice Scalia. As Barrett has explained:
“Originalism rests on two basic claims. First, the meaning of constitutional text is fixed at the time of its ratification. Second, the original meaning of the text controls because “it and it alone is law.” Nonoriginalists consider the text’s historical meaning to be a relevant factor in interpreting the Constitution, but other factors, like value-based judgments, might overcome it. Originalists, by contrast, treat the original meaning as a relatively hard constraint.”
- During her years on the Seventh Circuit, Barrett has authored several notable opinions that you can read about here.
Historical facts about Barrett’s appointment
- Barrett is the sixth justice of the nine currently on the bench who was appointed by a Republican, and the third appointed by President Donald Trump. As an originalist in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett will likely shift the philosophical balance of the Court in a more conservative direction.
- Barrett is the first female justice with school-age children to serve on the Supreme Court, and the fifth female justice overall. She fills the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was the second female justice, and will serve alongside the third and fourth female justices ― Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
- Barrett is the second female justice appointed by a Republican president, following in the footsteps of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed as the first female justice by Ronald Reagan.
- Barrett is the 15th Catholic to serve as a Supreme Court justice, joining five justices currently on the bench ― Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
- As a graduate of Notre Dame Law School, Barrett will be the first Supreme Court justice to have earned her law degree that isn’t Stanford or in the Ivy League since Justice John Paul Stevens, who was on the Court from 1975-2010.
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- Should Judge Amy Coney Barrett Be Confirmed to the Supreme Court?
- What is the “Ginsburg Rule” for Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings?
- What is the "McConnell Rule" for Supreme Court Nominations?
- What Happened When Supreme Court Vacancies Occurred Ahead of Past Presidential Elections?
— Eric Revell
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