Senate Confirms Barrett to Supreme Court, Eight Days Before Election Day

After her nomination was advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee with solely Republican support, Senate Republicans voted on Monday night to ram through Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

The vote was 52–48. Every Republican senator except one voted yes on Barrett. Every Democrat voted no—marking the first time in 151 years that a Supreme Court nominee was confirmed without a single vote from the minority party.

Senate Democrats Force All-Nighter to Protest Barrett Nomination

But Senate Democrats did not let the nomination go through without a fight.

Several notable Democrats gave floor speeches overnight Sunday into Monday to voice their opposition to Barrett’s confirmation—a sentiment shared by the majority (74 percent) of Americans.

“Senate Democrats are taking over the floor all night to fight this sham process by Senate Republicans,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday evening. “We will not stop fighting.”

Under the Senate’s “cloture” rule, debate on the Senate floor is limited to 30 hours. The confirmation vote in the Senate began on Sunday afternoon—a rare occurrence, showing Senate Republicans’ desire for a speedy confirmation.

(May we remind you that the Senate has yet to pass a new COVID-19 relief bill, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) even cautioned the president against working with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on a stimulus deal.)

Besides Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who was campaigning and did not participate, all Senate Democrats were united in their vote against Barrett’s confirmation process.

They were joined by two Republicans, Sens. Collins and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in their initial cloture vote—though Murkowski ultimately decided to vote in favor of Barrett’s confirmation on Monday.

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Democrats demonstrated resilience and persistence through the night before Barrett’s final vote. In addition to calling out the hypocrisy of Republican senators who refused to hold confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland in 2016, Democrats took aim at the ethicality of Republican nomination processes, specifically with regards to financial influence.

“The things that are happening are truly bizarre, unprecedented. Bad enough that there should be dark money in elections. Dark money in judicial selection? Please defend that, if you think that’s right, if you think that big special interests should be able to write big, anonymous checks, and thereby gain a voice in the composition of the United States Supreme Court,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said to his colleagues, regarding the deep ways groups like the Federalist Society and Judicial Crisis Network and their “dark money” have infiltrated its way into American politics—specifically into the judicial branch.

“Please come and defend that proposition, because I don’t think you can. I think it matters if an individual wrote $35 million worth of checks to influence the makeup of our United States Supreme Court… So, in some respects this is the end of things.”

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) condemned the unprecedented partisanship being imposed upon the judicial branch by Senate Republicans, describing their house of Congress as one “where words have lost their meaning. Party advantage dictates every action. … Deliberation is no longer necessary because conclusions are all foregone.”

Senator Mara Cantwell (D-Wash.) defended abortion access and criticized her colleagues’ willingness to degrade the civil liberties that are ever more crucial during a time of increased violence and health care concerns.

“I come to the floor to defend a woman’s right to choose. I am beyond frustrated that this debate is even happening tonight. … When someone wants to chip away at the rights of American women to have access to health care, my state is going to take it personally,” Cantwell stated. “It is a minority, and a minority on this floor, who does not support [the right to abortion], and would love to have a judicial process that shortcuts active debate about the issues of what are in the mainstream views of Americans.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Cantwell in stressing Barrett’s staunch opposition to reproductive justice, stating that “she would likely be the court’s most extreme member on reproductive rights,” to which she “represents a threat.” The Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is at equal risk, with a Supreme Court hearing scheduled for Nov. 10, just one week after the election.

“My Republican colleagues know they can count on her to provide the decisive fifth vote on the Supreme Court to strike down the ACA, to help them ram through the courts an outcome they tried and failed to achieve 70 times in Congress. The consequences of Judge Barrett’s vote to strike down the ACA would be catastrophic,” Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said.

However, Republicans weren’t phased by Democrats’ attempts to appeal to their morality. McConnell reassured his colleagues that they would certainly reap the benefits of their actions on Monday. 

“The Senate is doing the right thing. We’re moving this nomination forward. By tomorrow night, we’ll have a new member of the United States Supreme Court,” McConnell said, adding: “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. … They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

The Democrats’ talkathon didn’t last long before being eventually bypassed by their opposing majority—as they knew was bound to happen. However, they continue to demonstrate publicly in a show of strong loyalty to their values, hoping to honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “most fervent wish”: “that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

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About and

Roxanne Szal (or Roxy) is the managing digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.
Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a junior at Tufts University studying sociology and community health. She is a Ms. contributing writer, and was formerly an editorial fellow, research fellow and assistant editor of social media. You can find her on Twitter at @sophie_dk_.