CHN: Senate Moves to Confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett; Hot-button Issues Await

Voting mostly along party lines, the Senate on Oct. 25 voted (51-48) to end debate and move forward with the confirmation vote to put Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Republican Senators Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) joined all Democrats and Independents in opposing the move. The final vote to confirm Judge Barrett is expected to come on the evening of Monday, Oct. 26.

Vice President Pence has said he wants to be present in the Senate when the final vote takes place to break a tie if necessary. However, given the recent outbreak of COVID-19 among Pence’s staff, Senate Democratic leadership sent a letter urging Pence not to come. The Senate floor vote came after the Senate Judiciary Committee last week voted 8-0 along party lines to recommend Barrett’s confirmation, with all of the committee’s Democrats boycotting the vote.

The confirmation of Judge Barrett will alter the court’s balance of power and has evoked outrage from Democrats who said the battle over the court’s vacancy should have been delayed until the next president is sworn into office.

Barrett’s elevation to the court comes as the nine justices are expected to consider a number of election-related challenges, both before and after Nov. 3. Another case on tap: Nov. 10 arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

Other hot-button issues that already have or could reach the court during its current term: the 2020 Census, LGBTQ rights, women’s health, disputes over federal voting rights laws, the consideration of race in university admissions, and the constitutionality of Obama-era immigration reforms.

The Coalition on Human Needs had called on all members of the Senate to reject Barrett’s nomination, citing broad-based concern in five areas: access to health care, immigration, workers’ rights, antidiscrimination, and criminal justice.

In a letter to all members of the Senate signed by CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein, CHN strongly objected to the Senate’s rush to confirmation while refusing to take action on robust COVID-19 relief.

“The real urgency before the Senate is responding to the needs of millions of people who are threatened by the disease itself or its economic repercussions,” CHN said. “Asking people who are experiencing serious hardships to wait months for a response from Congress is an unconscionable abdication of responsibility, as is failing to provide adequate funding for public health measures to combat the pandemic.” (See related article in this Human Needs Report for more information on relief efforts in Congress.)

The letter also documents Barrett’s past opinions detrimental to immigrants, workers, low-income people, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and people suspected of committing crimes.

“Among the extremely consequential decisions likely or certain to face the Supreme Court, in addition to the Affordable Care Act, concern the November 3 elections and the 2020 Census,” the letter states. “A great deal is at stake: access to health care during the pandemic and beyond, and the very functioning of our challenged democracy. The nation demands a very careful examination of any nominee’s approach. For the Senate to rush through this confirmation process is another abdication of its responsibility with consequences lasting decades into the future.”

You can view CHN’s 8-page letter here.