A deeply torn Senate is set to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Republicans overpowering Democratic opposition and institutional norms to secure President Donald Trump's nominee the week before Election Day.
Barrett's confirmation Monday was hardly in doubt as Senate Republicans seized the opportunity to install a third Trump justice, securing a conservative court majority for the foreseeable future.
With no real power to stop the vote, Democrats argued into the night Sunday that the winner of the November 3 election should be the one to choose the nominee to fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The 48-year-old appellate judge's rise opens up a potential new era of rulings on abortion, gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act. A case against the Obama-era health law is scheduled to be heard November 10.
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." Vice President Mike Pence would typically preside over Monday's vote, but after a close aide and others on his staff tested positive for the coronavirus, it was unclear whether he would attend.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the Trump administration's drive to install Barrett during the coronavirus crisis shows "the Republican Party is willing to ignore the pandemic in order to rush this nominee forward." To underscore the potential health risks, Schumer urged his colleagues not to linger in the chamber but "cast your votes quickly and from a safe distance." Some GOP senators tested positive for the coronavirus following a Rose Garden event with Trump to announce Barrett's nomination, but they have since said they have been cleared by their doctors from quarantine.
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