Alaska Sen. Murkowski to support Barrett for Supreme Court
Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced Saturday she will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, giving crucial support to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before the conservative judge faces a final vote expected Monday.
The Alaska Republican had been a rare holdout on Barrett, objecting that her nomination had proceeded so close to a presidential election. Even though Barrett appears to have more than enough support for confirmation from Senate Republicans who hold the majority, Murkowksi’s vote now gives Trump’s nominee additional backing.
Mukowski announced her support for Barrett in a speech during Saturday’s session. “While I oppose the process that has led us to this point, I do not hold it against her,” she said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) noted the political rancor, but defended his handling of the process.
“Our recent debates have been heated, but curiously talk of Judge Barrett’s actual credentials or qualifications are hardly featured,” McConnell said. He called her one of the most “impressive” nominees for public office “in a generation.”
The fast-track confirmation process is like none other in U.S. history so close to a presidential election. Democrats call it a “sham” and say the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election should name the nominee to fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer of New York warned Republicans the only way to remove the “stain” of their action would be to “withdraw the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett until after the election.”
With the nation experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases, Democrats were expected to force a series of votes throughout Saturday on coronavirus relief legislation, including the House-passed Heroes Act that would pump money into schools, hospitals and jobless benefits and provide other aid.
Republicans were expected to turn aside the measures and keep Barrett’s confirmation on track, which would lock a 6-3 conservative majority on the court for the foreseeable future. Senators planned to stay in session Saturday and Sunday.
Barrett, 48, presented herself in public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a neutral arbiter of cases on abortion, the Affordable Care Act and presidential power — issues soon confronting the court. At one point she said, “It’s not the law of Amy.” She declined to state her views on those issue and many others, to the frustration of Democratic senators.
But Barrett’s past writings against abortion and a ruling on the Obama-era healthcare law show a deeply conservative thinker.
Trump said this week he is hopeful the Supreme Court will undo the healthcar law when the justices take up a challenge Nov. 10, the week after the election.
Schumer called it the “least legitimate process in the country’s history” as he forced procedural steps.
But Republicans countered they were taking as much time on Barrett’s nomination as the average for Supreme Court confirmation. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) dismissed the stall tactics as “frivolous.”
At the start of Trump’s presidency, McConnell engineered a Senate rules change to allow confirmation by a majority of the 100 senators, rather than the 60-vote threshold traditionally needed to advance high court nominees over objections. With a 53-47 GOP majority, Barrett’s confirmation is almost certain.
Most Republicans are supporting Barrett’s confirmation. Only Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has said she won’t vote for a nominee so close to the presidential election.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee powered Barrett’s nomination forward Thursday despite a boycott of the vote by Democrats.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee chairman, acknowledged the partisan nature of the proceedings, but said it was crucial that the Senate confirm someone he said was such an exceptional nominee. Graham (R-S.C.) called Barrett a “role model” for conservative women and for people with strongly held religious beliefs.
Democrats said Barrett would undo much of what was accomplished by liberal icon Ginsburg.
By pushing for Barrett’s ascension so close to the election, Trump and his Republican allies are counting on a campaign boost, in much the way they believe McConnell’s refusal to allow the Senate to consider President Obama’s nominee in 2016 created excitement for Trump among conservatives and evangelical Christians eager for the Republican president to make that nomination after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February of that election year.
Graham, for example, with his high-profile role leading the hearings, has been raking in about $1 million a day this month for his reelection campaign. That rate outpaces Graham’s third-quarter total of $28 million, which his campaign said represented the largest amount ever raised by any Republican Senate candidate in a single quarter.
In trying to derail or at least slow Barrett’s confirmation, Democrats argue that the winner of the presidential election should decide who replaces Ginsburg.
Barrett was a professor at Notre Dame Law School when she was tapped by Trump in 2017 for an appeals court opening. Two Democrats joined at that time to confirm her, but none is expected to vote for her in the days ahead.
During the three days of testimony, and subsequent filings to the Senate committee, Barrett declined to answer basic questions for senators, such as whether the president can change the date of federal elections, which is set in law. Instead, she pledged to take the cases as they come.
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