Mitch McConnell’s Senate Republican caucus today completed its objective of packing the United States Supreme Court with a supermajority of right wing jurists, overriding Democratic objections and voting to install Donald Trump’s unqualified nominee Amy Coney Barrett to take the place of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had asked that her seat not be filled before the election.
The vote was fifty-two to forty-eight, with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine (who previously voted for Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch) voting nay along with the Democratic members and the chamber’s two independents.
The roll call from the Pacific Northwest was as follows:
Voting Aye to Confirm Amy Coney Barrett: Republican Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho, Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Steve Daines of Montana
Voting Nay, to Reject the Nomination: Democratic Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Jon Tester of Montana
Coney Barrett was sworn in almost immediately, as Republicans want her on the Supreme Court in time to participate in any election-related cases.
Incensed Democrats pointed out the rank hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell’s caucus, noting that four years ago, McConnell refused to even give President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a hearing. (Garland was nominated to replace Antonin Scalia.) Republicans have pathetically tried to argue that since they hold the Senate and the presidency, the precedent they set in 2016 does not apply.
But of course, that is simply an invitation for Democrats to ignore their concerns as soon as they hold the presidency and the Senate, something that could happen within just a few weeks if the Democrats do well in the 2020 presidential election.
Barrett’s experience consists of two years of private practice, fifteen years of teaching experience, and a short stint on an appellate court.
She has never tried a case, never argued an appeal, never argued before the United States Supreme Court, and did not become a judge until 2017. Furthermore, she has very little experience handling criminal cases.
In short, Barrett is not qualified to sit on the highest court in the land.
Barrett may be qualified to practice law, but she is definitely not an appropriate choice to succeed the late, great Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Republicans don’t care. Their goal is a highly partisan, militant, right wing Court that can even defy Chief Justice John Roberts on those occasions when Roberts does not want to be a judicial activist. With Barrett, they now have a five person bloc that can be expected to disregard precedent and established, settled law in favor of nonsensical right wing interpretations of the Constitution and federal law.
“The rushed and unprecedented confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as Associate Justice to the Supreme Court, in the middle of an ongoing election, should be a stark reminder to every American that your vote matters,” said Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a statement released after the vote.
“Just a few days after Election Day next week, the Supreme Court will hear the case on the [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act. While panicked and erratic in mishandling the pandemic, Donald Trump has been crystal clear on one thing — for the past four years, and again just last night on 60 Minutes — he wants to tear down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety and take away your health care and protections for pre-existing conditions.”
“This goal — the goal of the Republican Party for ten years — was a litmus test in selecting this nominee, regardless of the damage done to the U.S. Senate, to Americans’ faith in the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, and to our democracy, and regardless of how the Affordable Care Act has protected hundreds of millions of people before and during the pandemic.”
“Today will go down as one of the darkest days in the two hundred and thirty-one year history of the United States Senate,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. “Let the record show that tonight the Republican Senate majority decided to thwart the will of the people and confirm a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court in the middle of a presidential election after more than sixty million Americans have voted.”
“Eight days before an election, Donald Trump and Republicans have ignored the will of the American people and forced through a nominee who represents the gravest threat to health care and reproductive rights in a generation, even as the administration gives up on trying to control the coronavirus and fights in court to remove protections for people with preexisting conditions,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez.
“This vote is a disgrace to our democracy and a betrayal of the American people’s wishes. That’s why voters are already flocking to the polls and mailing in their ballots in record numbers to send Donald Trump packing. They understand what’s at stake in this election. Health care is on the ballot. LGBTQ rights, voting rights, and workers’ rights are on the ballot. The future of our planet is on the ballot.”
Former Senator Russ Feingold, the head of the American Constitution Society, vowed a fierce response from the country’s progressive legal community.
“The lawyers and especially the law students who are members of the American Constitution Society are not going to sit quietly by as the Right takes away their future. I want them and the American people to know that since the Right insists on having a fight about the future of the Court, we are here, we are on your side, and we are ready for that fight,” Feingold said in a fiery statement.
Schumer, Biden, and other top Democrats are coming under increasing pressure to committing to expanding the judiciary to restore balance and reverse the Republican Party’s insidious court packing initiative.
“Expand the court,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declared.
“Republicans do this because they don’t believe Dems have the stones to play hardball like they do,” she added. “And for a long time they’ve been correct. But do not let them bully the public into thinking their bulldozing is normal but a response isn’t. There is a legal process for expansion.”
AOC is correct. The United States Supreme Court should be promptly expanded and new justices nominated to diversify the Court.
We’ve seen here in Washington State what can happen when our judiciary looks like our people. It wasn’t so long ago that our Court was mostly old white men. But now, seven of nine Washington State Supreme Court justices are women. Four are people of color, and three of the four are women of color.
The impact of this representation has been profound.
For example, two weeks ago, the State Supreme Court took the opportunity to overturn a decades old decision that was wrong and racist whilst simultaneously putting the kibosh on Tim Eyman’s unconstitutional I‑976. That’s not something a court dominated by white conservatives would have done.
The United States Supreme Court needs to become more like the Washington State Supreme Court just as soon as that can be arranged.