The Senate confirmed a Catholic woman Tuesday to sit on an appeals court seat over the opposition of Democrats, sparking complaints from Republicans who said they fear some in the chamber are imposing religious tests that would deny faithful Catholics a chance at judgeships.
Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, cleared on a 55 to 43 vote, with all of the opposition coming from members of the Democratic Caucus. Just three Democrats join the GOP in backing her nomination to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
She was the first of three women, and four appeals court nominees total, that Republicans intend to confirm this week.
“I assume that all three of these impressive women will receive strong support from our Democratic colleagues, who never seem to miss an opportunity to talk about a ‘War on Women,’” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday.
Ms. Barrett, a devout Catholic, drew questions about her faith during her confirmation hearing last month. Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, asked her if she was an “orthodox Catholic” while Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, told Ms. Barrett “the dogma” lives loudly within her.
On Monday, Republican senators accused Democrats of “Catholic bigotry” in their refusal to support Ms. Barrett’s confirmation, saying their attempt to mount a filibuster against her was proof.
But Mr. Durbin said he was only asking Ms. Barrett about her academic writing where she used the term “orthodox Catholic” and he wondered what she meant by that. He also said his opposition to her wasn’t because of her faith, but rather because she hasn’t spent enough time in a courtroom.
“I’ll let my record speak for itself about the numbers of Catholic nominees that I have appointed to the bench,” he said on the chamber floor Tuesday. “I don’t believe she has sufficient experience to be a circuit court judge.”
Progressive groups didn’t say Ms. Barrett was unqualified based on her faith, but worry she will rule against women’s right to reproductive health care and gay rights.
“Professor Barrett’s past statements and writings show a strong, personal bias against reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights. And more broadly, her record demonstrates a dangerous lack of deference to long-standing precedent and judicial restraint,” said Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“If Donald Trump succeeds in packing the courts with judges who share his hostility to civil rights, we will lose one of the only remaining checks our nation has on his virtually unlimited powers, and the consequences will be felt for decades to come,” said Sharon McGowan, strategy director for Lambda Legal.
Mr. Durbin also said he will reject the other three circuit court judges this week.
One of those, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who is nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overcame an attempted filibuster by Democrats on Tuesday in a 60 to 38 vote.
Mr. Durbin said he rejects Justice Larsen because she was on the list of 21 judges suggested to Mr. Trump during his campaign as potential Supreme Court nominees by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation to fill the vacancy after the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016.
“Clearly, those right wing organizations are confident that they will like her rulings if she is confirmed,” he said.
Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid for the 10th Circuit and Stephanos Bibas for the 3rd Circuit are also set to receive confirmation votes by the end of the week, according to Mr. McConnell.
The Senate confirmed Trevor McFadden for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday.