Senate Judiciary Committee approves Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court, full Senate vote on Monday
WASHINGTON – All 12 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination Thursday, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote on her confirmation Monday. Democrats opted to boycott the hearing, leaving no one to oppose the nomination.
Democrats had said they would not attend the hearing and vote, hoping to prevent the committee from establishing a quorum. Instead, Democrats held a press conference Thursday morning and placed pictures of people they said were beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act on their chairs in the committee meeting room.
Republicans moved forward with the vote anyway, quickly approving Barrett just minutes into what was scheduled to be an hours-long hearing.
“Judge Barrett is going to the floor,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., after the panel finished voting on Barrett's nomination. “I hope you look back at this time on the committee and say I was there when it mattered. And you were."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called it “surreal” for the panel to vote on Barrett’s nomination without Democrats there. He criticized the Democrats’ placement of pictures on their chairs as "theater."
The entire hearing was over in about an hour, and after the senators finished their votes, Republican lawmakers took turns criticizing Democrats for not showing up and responded to arguments Democrats raised during Barrett's confirmation hearings.
“The other side, having failed to lay a glove on Judge Barrett, have walked out on this process. And so doing, walk out on the American people,” said. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
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President Donald Trump congratulated Republicans on the proceedings, calling it a "Big day for America!" in a tweet.
As the hearing concluded, Democrats on the committee and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the steps of the Capitol, denouncing the proceedings as "illegitimate."
"A Republican majority has left us no choice" but to boycott the hearing, Schumer said, accusing Graham of having "steamrolled over" the committee's own rules to approve Barrett.
Protesters were audible during Democrats' press conference, with some dressed in handmaid costumes and shouting at Democrats for having "showed up and legitimized the process." Capitol Police said six people were arrested for "blocking, obstructing, or incommoding" a public street or building.
Graham called the boycott of the hearing Democrats’ “choice,” but countered that he would not allow Democrats "to take over the committee.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee's rules outline that at least nine members of the majority (Republicans) and at least two members of the minority (Democrats) need to be present to conduct business.
While Democrats boycotting the hearing technically meant the committee's rules barred Republicans from moving forward on Barrett's nomination, it wasn't expected to stop the process.
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Sarah Binder, a political science professor at George Washington University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, noted that "committee rules can't enforce themselves."
"Were a Democrat to raise a point of order in committee against proceeding, GOP majority could easily vote down the objection," she said on Twitter, noting that any attempt to enforce this rule would be quashed by Republicans who hold the majority.
A spokeswoman for the GOP-led panel pointed to a Senate rule that allows the committee to move forward and cited seven times the panel had curbed the quorum rules since 2006.
Democrats had been teasing the possibility they might boycott Barrett's hearings for days. While liberals have harshly criticized the process and Barrett's appointment in the midst of Americans voting in a presidential election, Democrats have acknowledged they don't have the power to halt her confirmation.
Only two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, have voiced opposition to filling the vacancy on the court left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death before the election. Two other Republicans would have to join with Democrats in order to halt what appears to be Barrett's inevitable confirmation to the Supreme Court.
The vote Thursday follows four days of hearings last week, where senators peppered Barrett with questions for hours about a host of issues that could come before the high court, including the Affordable Care Act, abortion, voting rights and climate change.
During the hearings:Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett strives to show independence from White House, Republicans
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Barrett dodged answering many inquiries that dealt with contentious issues, frustrating Democrats who were eager to derail her confirmation, while vowing to keep an open mind on any issue that comes before her on the court.
Since Ginsburg died in September, both sides have fought over how to go about replacing her on the court. Republicans have sought to confirm a new justice by Election Day in an effort to add one more conservative justice to the court before a contentious election. Democrats, hoping Joe Biden defeats Trump and they regain control of the Senate, have said the outcome of the election should determine who gets to choose a new Supreme Court justice.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to take up Barrett's confirmation on Friday, setting up two days of debate over the weekend, a procedural vote on Sunday and a final vote by the chamber on Monday – eight days before the election.
If Barrett is confirmed, there would be a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.