In the final stretch of a campaign full of shocks, the United States Senate prepares to pour more fuel on the political debate with the express confirmation of the candidate of Donald Trump to fill the open vacancy in the Supreme Court, the ultra-conservative Amy Coney Barrett. Amid protests by the Democrats, the upper house will open the sessions for the ratification of the magistrate on Monday just 22 days before the elections for the country’s presidency. Barrett, whose presentation speech before the Judicial Committee was advanced yesterday by local media, will advocate for the independence of the court.
Barring surprises, the urgent choice to fill the square of the progressive Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died in mid-September, will end with a new family photo with Barrett, 48, among the judges of the highest court in the country.
Everything is perfectly choreographed for the Republicans to be able to seat the magistrate in court, who will tip the balance on the side of the Conservatives, before the November 3 elections. A confirmation for a lifetime position at unprecedented speed, in less than 22 days.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation took 66 days; la de Brett Kavanaugh 89. Both judges were chosen by Donald Trump. His predecessor, Barack Obama, appointed Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The Senate judicial committee took 72 and 87 days to confirm them for the position, respectively. George Bush Jr. —who owed his first electoral victory to the Supreme Court by failing to decide the outcome against Al Gore at the polls— had time and opportunity to appoint the current President of the Supreme Court, Judge John Roberts and Samuel Alito, whose confirmations also required dozens of sessions, as in the case of Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, appointed by Bill Clinton. And Clarence Thomas, nominated by Bush Sr., only passed a hundred days.
Democrats accuse Republicans of double standards and hypocrisy for forcing a confirmation that they themselves said was impossible to carry out at election time. Barack Obama was presented with the opportunity to appoint his third member to the Supreme Court when conservative icon Antonin Scalia died in February 2016 at the age of 79. The presidential elections were nine months away. But even before Obama had time to put on the table Judge Merrick Garland’s name, the Republican Majority Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, rejected a nomination before the election. McConnell, who has now orchestrated a confirmation in record time, then declared that the new Supreme Court justice should be chosen by the next president. It turned out to be Trump.
The Republican Majority Leader in the Senate has been adamant, insisting that hearings open today despite there being three Republican senators diagnosed with coronavirus, two of whom, in addition, are members of the Judicial Committee that will decide the fate of Barrett. Those two sick senators, Mike Lee (Utah) and Thom Tillis (North Carolina), came to the presentation ceremony of Judge Barrett at the White House on September 26, after which several attendees tested positive for covid-19. The hearings will last four days in principle and due to the coronavirus, senators who wish to participate will be allowed to participate virtually. It will be the case of Lee and Tillis, confined by the contagion.
Republicans know they have the number of votes necessary for Barrett to become the fifth woman to sit on the Supreme Court. Republicans have a majority of 53 senators to 47 (45 Democrats and two independents) in the upper house – only a simple majority of 51 votes is required. The confirmation hearings will be led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, who has refused a coronavirus test.
When the hearings in the Judiciary Committee conclude Thursday, Republicans are scheduled to vote on Oct. 22 for the election to pass Judge Barrett’s appointment to the Senate. If all goes as planned by McConnell, Barrett would receive the blessing of the Republican majority towards the end of October, thus ensuring the Republicans a court that is leaning towards the conservatives that can be seen in the situation of having to decide on the electoral result. President Trump does not stop questioning the validity of the vote by mail and refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in case of losing to Democrat Joe Biden.
In four days, the Republicans prepare to present the most favorable portrait possible of a judge faithful to the conservative philosophy of law embodied by his teacher, Antonin Scalia. They will present an image of a woman with an impeccable reputation, a tireless worker as well as a wife and mother of seven children (two adopted in Haiti, and one with Down syndrome). Barrett, according to the advance of his speech in the Judicial Committee disclosed yesterday by the American media, will influence the independence of the court. “I believe that Americans of all backgrounds deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as written,” he says. In Barrett’s view, “the government’s policy decisions and value judgments must be made by the powers elected by the People and accountable to them.”
Democrats will insist that his religious devotion (he is Catholic) is likely to affect his objectivity when sentencing. They also see the future of the right to abortion, enshrined in the Constitution, in danger, given the position of the judge clearly against the interruption of pregnancy. In addition, the health law of the Obama era is at stake, as well as issues related to immigration.