WASHINGTON, D.C. — Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court late Monday by a deeply divided Senate, with 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, 48, will be able to start work Tuesday, her lifetime appointment as the 115th justice solidifying the court’s rightward tilt.
“This is a momentous day for America,” Trump said at a primetime swearing-in event on the South Lawn at the White House. Justice Clarence Thomas administered the Constitutional Oath to Barrett before a crowd of about 200.
Barrett told those gathered that she believes “it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences.” She vowed, “I will do my job without any fear or favor.”
“Voting to confirm this nominee should make every single senator proud,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, fending off “outlandish” criticism in a lengthy speech. During a rare weekend session he declared that Barrett’s opponents “won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”
During several days of public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett was careful not to disclose how she would rule on any such cases.
She presented herself as a neutral arbiter and suggested, “It’s not the law of Amy.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, praised the mother of seven as a role model for conservative women. “This is historic,” Graham said.
Republicans focused on her Catholic faith, criticizing earlier Democratic questions about her beliefs. Graham called Barrett “unabashedly pro-life.”
Tami Fitzgerald of the NC Values Coalition said the confirmation was “a fulfillment of President Trump’s promise to appoint pro-life judges who will carry out the Constitution and laws as written, without contorting the law to reach a desired outcome.”
She continued, saying, “There is no one more qualified to sit on the Supreme Court than Justice Barrett. In addition to her originalist and textualist judicial philosophy, what makes her so appealing is her sincere Christian faith and her devotion to her family as the most important thing in her life. Having a mother of 7 serve in such a high-profile office is proof that women don’t need abortion to succeed in life. We will pray for Justice Barrett and her family as she undertakes the monumental task of administering justice in the top court in the world.”
Only one Republican — Sen. Susan Collins, who is in a tight reelection fight in Maine — voted against the nominee, not over any direct assessment of Barrett. Rather, Collins said, “I do not think it is fair nor consistent to have a Senate confirmation vote prior to the election.”
Trump and his Republican allies had hoped for a campaign boost, in much the way Trump generated excitement among conservatives and evangelical Christians in 2016 over a court vacancy. That year, McConnell refused to allow the Senate to consider then-President Barack Obama’s choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, arguing the new president should decide.
Most other Republicans facing tough races embraced the nominee who clerked for the late Scalia to bolster their standing with conservatives. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said in a speech Monday that Barrett will “go down in history as one of the great justices.”
But it’s not clear the extraordinary effort to install the new justice over such opposition in a heated election year will pay political rewards to the GOP.
Demonstrations for and against the nominee have been more muted at the Capitol under coronavirus restrictions.
Democrats were unified against Barrett. While two Democratic senators voted to confirm Barrett in 2017 after Trump nominated the Notre Dame Law School professor to the appellate court, none voted to confirm her to the high court.
In a display of party priorities, California Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, returned to Washington from the campaign trail to join colleagues with a no vote.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest released a statement on the confirmation, saying, “The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States is a major win for the rule of law. Throughout the entire confirmation process Judge Barrett displayed an impeccable understanding of the Constitution. Her qualifications, judicial record, life experiences and outstanding character will make her an excellent Supreme Court Justice for years to come. President Trump has delivered once again on his promise to nominate judges that will uphold the Constitution as written.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.