Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to US Supreme Court

WASHINGTON - Amy Coney Barrett has become the 115th Supreme Court Justice in US history, capping off a rapid confirmation process just days before the 2020 presidential election. She was confirmed by a vote of 52-48 with Rep. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to be the lone GOP dissenting vote.

Barrett is President Donald Trump’s pick to fill the vacancy left behind by the late liberal icon, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For the first time since 1930, Republicans will hold a 6-3 advantage on the US Supreme Court.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel released the following statement on the Senate’s vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Judge Amy Coney Barrett will now be Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. That is another Promise Made and Promise Kept under President Trump. All Americans will be well served by Justice Barrett’s fidelity to the rule of law and her commitment to interpreting the Constitution as written in the decisions that will come before her as a member of the high court.

"Four years ago voters elected Donald Trump as their president in large part because of his promise to appoint qualified constitutionalists, and in eight days Americans are going to vote for more justices like Amy Coney Barrett by re-electing President Trump along with Republicans up and down the ballot."

With a Republican Senate majority, Barrett was expected be approved Monday night following a quick confirmation process over the objections of Democrats, who say her nomination is too close to the U.S. election in November.

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris rebuked what she called a rushed process and a threat to the Affordable Healthcare Act.

"Today Republicans denied the will of the American people by confirming a Supreme Court justice through an illegitimate process — all in their effort to gut the Affordable Care Act and strip health care from millions with pre-existing conditions," Harris tweeted. "We won’t forget this."

US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fired off a tweet in support of court-packing minutes after Barrett's confirmation.

"Expand the court," she said.

Sen. Collins, who is in a tight reelection fight in Maine, is expected to vote against the nominee, not over any direct assessment of Barrett. Rather, Collins said, “I do not think it is fair nor consistent to have a Senate confirmation vote prior to the election.”

The Senate had been pushing for a quick vote before the Nov. 3 election and ahead of the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court is set to hear on Nov. 10. Many questions from Democrats during the confirmation hearings centered on this topic, with fears that Barrett would be a vote to undo the “Obamacare” law — which provides more than 20 million Americans health insurance coverage.

During testimony earlier this month, Barrett presented herself as a judge with deeply held religious beliefs, but vowed to approach each case with an “open mind.” A devout Catholic, the 48-year-old appellate judge promised to bring no personal agenda to the high court.

She has remained neutral on many issues, asserting it's against judicial code to say whether she would overturn the Affordable Care Act or how she would vote on other politically fraught issues, including abortion.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who presided over the confirmation hearings, said previously that Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court is a signal to young conservative women who oppose abortion that there’s “a seat at the table for them.”

“She’s going to the court,” Graham said Oct. 13. “This is the first time in American history that we’ve nominated a woman who’s unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology.”

Senators questioned Barrett’s views on racial equity and presidential power in a bid to determine how she would rule on cases. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois probed whether her strict adherence to originalism means a president could not “unilaterally deny the right to vote” based on race, noting restrictions on mail-in ballots being erected in several states before Nov. 3.

Barrett has said she is an "originalist" when it comes to interpreting the U.S. Constitution, indicating that she believes that the meaning of law does not change over time. She agreed there are "many laws" that protect the right to vote, including the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, but stopped short of a blanket statement: "I really can't say anything more," Barrett said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked what she thinks of Trump's view that he can pardon himself. Barrett said during the confirmation hearings that a president's ability to pardon himself has never been tested in court and the question calls for “legal analysis.”

She said, “It's not one that I can offer a view.”

Barrett was also asked about being compared to the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she clerked, even being dubbed by some as a “female Scalia.”

"I would say that Justice Scalia was obviously a mentor, and as I said when I accepted the president's nomination, that his philosophy is mine, too," Barrett answered during the hearings. "He was a very eloquent defender of originalism."

"But I want to be careful to say that if I'm confirmed, you would not be getting Justice Scalia, you would be getting Justice Barrett. And that's so because originalists don't always agree," she continued.

Barrett told senators she can set aside her Catholic beliefs and has done that since her confirmation as an appeals court judge in 2017. She declined to say whether she would recuse herself from any election-related cases involving Trump.

“Judges can’t just wake up one day and say I have an agenda — I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion — and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was expected to administer the official constitutional oath to Barrett on Monday evening if confirmed, FOX News reported.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.