Barrett confirmed, new era opens for a conservative Supreme Court

Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court late Monday by a deeply divided Senate, Republicans overpowering Democrats to install President Donald Trump’s nominee days before the election and secure a likely conservative court majority for years to come.

Trump’s choice to fill the vacancy of the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg potentially opens a new era of rulings on abortion, the Affordable Care Act and even his own election. Democrats were unable to stop the outcome, Trump’s third justice on the court, as Republicans race to reshape the judiciary.

Barrett is 48, and her lifetime appointment as the 115th justice will solidify the court’s rightward tilt.

Monday’s 52-48 vote was the closest high court confirmation ever to a presidential election, and the first in modern times with no support from the minority party. No other Supreme Court justice has been confirmed on a recorded vote with no support from the minority party in at least 150 years, according to information provided by the Senate Historical Office.

The confirmation is the culmination of a decadeslong coordinated effort by a constellation of conservative groups, fueled by tens of millions of dollars from wealthy anonymous donors, to tilt the high court farther to the right, the Associated Press reported.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scoffed at the “apocalyptic” warnings from critics that the judicial branch was becoming mired in partisan politics as he defended its transformation under his watch.

 “This is something to be really proud of and feel good about,” the Republican leader said Sunday during a rare weekend session.

McConnell said that unlike legislative actions that can be undone by new presidents or lawmakers, “they won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

The confirmation was expected to be the first of a Supreme Court nominee so close to a presidential election. It’s also one of the first high court nominees in recent memory receiving no support from the minority party, a pivot from not long ago when a president’s picks often won wide support.

Barrett presented herself in public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a neutral arbiter and suggested, “It’s not the law of Amy.” But her writings against abortion and a ruling on “Obamacare” show a deeply conservative thinker. She was expected to be seated quickly on the high court.

By pushing for Barrett’s ascension so close to the Nov. 3 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 Obama’s nominee in February 2016 created excitement for Trump among conservatives and evangelical Christians eager for a Republican president to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Barrett was a professor at Notre Dame Law School when she was tapped by Trump in 2017 for an appeals court opening. 

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Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington, Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, and Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, contributed to this report.