The Senate late Monday confirmed federal appellate judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 margin with only Republican support, ending a heated partisan and ideologically driven confirmation process eight days before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
All 45 Senate Democrats were joined by two independents in opposing Barrett. The only Republican no vote came from Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who said she opposed Barrett’s confirmation so close to the election, though not on her merits.
Barrett, 48, a devout Roman Catholic, is the 115th justice and only the fifth woman to join the high court. She fills the seat voided by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon, who died on Sept. 18.
A wife and a mother of seven children who once clerked at the Supreme Court for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative stalwart, Barrett is a proponent of Scalia’s judicial philosophy of originalism—the belief that constitutional law should be constrained by the original intent of the Constitution’s authors.
Barrett drew fiery opposition during the confirmation process about her conservative religious and judicial beliefs from liberal senators and left-wing activist groups, who pressed her about how she might rule on abortion or gay marriage and other hot button issues. She refused to discuss hypotheticals but vowed to rule on the legal merits of cases, not her own beliefs.
Her confirmation drew praise from conservatives, who see the high court’s now 6-3 conservative majority as a potential buffer against judicial activism, often described as “legislating from the bench” in landmark cases such as the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion ruling and the 2014 Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing gay marriage.
Franklin Graham said on Facebook: “We thank God that another conservative, pro-life judge is now a member of the Supreme Court—this is an answer to prayer for our country. This makes three originalist justices that President Donald J. Trump has added to the highest court in the land, and this will impact our nation for decades to come.”
Barrett took her constitutional oath at a White House ceremony administered by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas with President Trump and a handful of senators present. Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday was to administer the judicial oath to Barrett.
Calling it “a momentous day for America,” President Trump said: “Justice Barrett, as you take your oath tonight, the legacy of our ancestors falls to you. The American people put their trust in you and their faith in you as you take up the task of defending our laws, our Constitution, and this country that we all love. We ask God to give you wisdom and courage.”
She is Trump’s third justice to be confirmed to the high court, after conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, and one of some 215 federal bench appointments the president has made in his first term—a legacy that will influence the federal courts for many years.
Barrett earned a full scholarship to Notre Dame Law School, graduating first in her class before clerking for Scalia. After private practice, she taught at Notre Dame Law School for 15 years, Trump tapped Barrett for the federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017.
The New Orleans native drew broad praise across the ideological spectrum for her judicial qualifications. In addition to receiving a “well qualified” rating from the American Bar Association—it’s highest mark—liberal Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman lauded Barrett’s intellect and judicial integrity. “I know her to be a brilliant and conscientious lawyer who will analyze and decide cases in good faith, applying the jurisprudential principles to which she is committed.”
John Garvey, president of Catholic University, wrote in the Wall Street Journal of discovering a standout student while teaching a First Amendment class at Notre Dame Law School.
“On the final exam, someone—the bluebooks were anonymous—had written an answer so impressive that I rushed to share it with one of my colleagues. This student, I said, gave a response to my own question much better than the one I had come up with myself. That student was Amy Coney. … I hired the future judge as my research assistant.”
“America knows a good Supreme Court justice when they see one and today the U.S. Senate confirmed one,” said Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO and chief counsel for First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom law firm. “As she demonstrated during her confirmation hearing, few people are more qualified to fill a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court or are more deeply committed to the principles of the Constitution than Judge Barrett. She is a stellar choice by the president.”
Barrett could begin hearing cases as early as next week, providing an opportunity for her to weigh in on upcoming decisions concerning such things as state voting disputes, the federal Affordable Care Act, immigration and LGBTQ rights.
Above: Following her confirmation to the Supreme Court on Monday night, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas administers the constitutional oath to Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the South Lawn of the White House as President Trump and her husband, Jesse M. Barrett, look on.
Photo: Chris Kleponis/Pool/Sipa USA (Newscom)