- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 25, 2020

Republicans overcame Democrats’ attempt to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Sunday, putting her on the path to confirmation late Monday and delivering another key piece in President Trump’s 2016 promise to remake the federal judiciary.

Senators voted 51-48 to head off the filibuster attempt, with two Republicans joining Democrats in objecting to the rush toward confirmation. It takes only a majority vote to end a filibuster on nominees.

“The Senate is doing the right thing,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who pushed hard to get the vote done before the election. “We are moving this nomination forward and colleagues, by tomorrow night we will have a new member of the United States Supreme Court.”

Democrats were hoping to delay a confirmation vote until next year or, at the least, until after the election, hoping to shame Republicans into allowing next week’s winner to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

They staged a boycott of last week’s Judiciary Committee vote, then once the nomination reached the floor, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York forced the Senate into a rare closed session. He said he wanted to have a frank behind-the-scenes talk about the consequences of confirming Judge Barrett to the high court less than two weeks before a presidential election.

Republicans called the move frivolous and quickly voted to resume the regular session.

Mr. Schumer then tried to adjourn the chamber and to force the nomination back to the committee. Each of those moves was brushed aside by Republicans on Friday.

On Saturday, Mr. Schumer demanded the Senate set aside the confirmation and take up COVID-19 relief legislation. That, too, failed.

Democrats’ final move was to try to mount a filibuster Sunday, and they got support from Republican Sens. Susan M. Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. But they still fell two votes shy of the majority needed to be successful.

Mr. Schumer said Republicans were exercising “raw political power.”

“Confirming a lifetime appointment this late into presidential election season is outrageous,” he said.

He pointed to four years ago when Mr. McConnell led Republicans in blocking action on President Obama’s pick to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, citing the upcoming election.

Mr. McConnell on Friday rejected suggestions of hypocrisy and said Democrats were the first to flex political power to upend judicial nominations, dating all the way back to their treatment of Judge Robert Bork, whom they blocked from elevation to the Supreme Court in 1987.

“It’s a matter of fact — a matter of history — that it was Senate Democrats who first began our contemporary difficulties with judicial nominations back in 1987, and who have initiated every meaningful escalation — every single one of them — from then up to the present day,” Mr. McConnell said Friday.

His speech appeared to foreshadow moves to potentially “pack the court” where the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has said they’ll move to add several new justices to the high court if Mr. Biden wins in November to counter the conservative majority.

Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, said Democrats used the weekend to remind voters of the issue of health care — an election topic that helped Democrats win the House in 2018.

Democrats argue Judge Barrett will vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act in a case the justices will hear in two weeks.

Mr. Levy said there was a message to the judge in this weekend’s floor debate.

“I think they also want to intimidate her a little bit when it comes to ruling on the ACA and election law cases,” Mr. Levey said.

The weekend battle back and forth between the two sides on the chamber floor kept senators in Washington instead of out on the campaign trail, with just about a week until Election Day.

Judge Barrett, during her confirmation hearing, declined Democrats’ demands to recuse herself from those cases, saying those are decisions she’ll make once she’s on the court, in consultation with other justices.

She said she has made no commitments to the president — or anyone — on how she would rule in any case.

In addition to the health care, Judge Barrett will have to consider a few state election law challenges from swing states where officials have moved to count mail-in ballots for several days following Election Day.

If she’s confirmed on Monday, Judge Barrett will have made it through the process faster than any nominee in 45 years.

Republican leaders were not only racing the election clock but also wanted to avoid a repeat of 2018 when Democrats seized on uncorroborated allegations of sexual assault against Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to prolong his confirmation.

Ms. Murkowski, who voted with Democrats on Sunday’s filibuster, has said she will vote to confirm Judge Barrett. Her objection was over the speed of the process, not the judge herself.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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