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Senate panel approves Trump court nominee

October 22, 2020

The stage is now set for a final Senate vote next week that could secure Amy Coney Barrett's seat on the top court ahead of the US election. The vote took place despite a total abstention by all Democratic members.

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Image: Shawn Thew/CNP/picture-alliance

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans advanced Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate on Thursday, despite a Democratic boycott. 

All 12 Republican members of the panel voted unanimously to advance Barrett's nomination to the full 100-member Senate, which is expected to make a final decision on Monday.

The 10 Democratic senators on the committee refused to show up in protest of the Republican party's rush to install Trump's nominee to replace late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Instead of attending, Democrats displayed posters at their desks of Americans they say have benefited from the Affordable Care Act.

The committee has never before confirmed a Supreme Court nominee so close to a presidential election. 

"We did it. Judge Barrett's nomination is going to the floor," said Chairman Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the committee. "This is a groundbreaking, historic moment for the American legal community and really politically."

The 48-year-old conservative judge's ascent to the top court would lock a 6-3 conservative majority on the court for the foreseeable future. That could open a new era of rulings on the Affordable Care Act, abortion access and even the results of the presidential election.

Read more: US presidential election: The top 5 issues

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee hold a news conference after boycotting the vote
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee hold a news conference after boycotting the voteImage: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo/picture-alliance

Democrats slam 'sham process'

Republicans moved forward with the vote despite a committee rule that two members of the minority party — the Democrats — be present in order to conduct business. Graham said it was the Democrats' "choice" to boycott the vote, but "we're not going to allow them to take over the committee." 

Unable to stop the vote with a majority, Democratic senators have been taking all possible measures to stop the nomination before the November 3 election. Democrats argue that the winner of the election should be the one to nominate a judge to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. 

With Republicans holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate, Trump's pick for the court is likely to be confirmed. All Democrats are expected to oppose Barrett's confirmation.

"We should not be moving forward on this nomination,'' Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said. He also called Barrett's views "so far out of the mainstream" and said Republicans were "concerned only with raw political power" in a "sham process."

Read more: Trump's Supreme Court pick dodges tough questions on presidential pardons

Republicans dismiss Democrat 'theater'

Republicans slammed the Democrats' decision to abstain from the meeting. 

"Rather than show up and do their job, they continue the theater,'' said Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, pointing out the posters at the senators' desks.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley called the objections to Barrett a "scare tactic.'' Meanwhile, Utah Senator Mike Lee called the boycott "a walkout on the American people.''

Trump has said he wants a judge seated in time to hear any potential disputes arising from the election. Barrett, an appellate court judge from Indiana, appeared for three days before the panel last week, fielding questions on her approach to abortion access, same-sex marriage, and a peaceful transfer of presidential power. 

Many judicial nominees decline to discuss their views on certain issues, saying they will consider the issues on a case by case basis. Barrett took a similar approach, raising Democratic eyebrows after she had previously spoken out against abortion and past rulings on the Affordable Care Act.

Trump's party holds a 53-47 majority in the upper chamber of Congress, but not all Republican senators have publicly committed to voting for Barrett, partially because it is so close to the election.

lc/rs (dpa, AP)