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us supreme court

When does the Senate vote on Supreme Court nominee? 

With Senate hearings in their third day Republicans and President Trump are poised to lock in a six-to-three majority in the high court for a generation. 

Update:
Amy Coney Barrett, US President Donald Trump's nominee for associate justice of the US Supreme Court, departs for a break during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 14, 2020.
STEFANI REYNOLDSAFP

Without any major reversal of opinion Amy Barrett looks set to be confirmed to the Supreme Court before the end of the month. The Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham has already scheduled a vote for Thursday morning even before the hearing on her confirmation will have ended.

Per committee rules her nomination will be confirmed the following week. From there it will be put to a vote on the floor of the Senate the week of 26 October.

It was over before it started

The result is pretty much a forgone conclusion, her confirmation only needs 50 senators to vote yes, with Mike Pence casting the 51st vote for her to be made a Supreme Court Justice. That scenario is unlikely as there aren’t enough Republicans that will vote against having her confirmed to fill the vacancy left by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Democrats have been critical of their Republican colleagues for rushing through this nomination with the election just around the corner less than three weeks away. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell famously held up Obama’s nomination of Garland Merrick for 293 days stating that the Senate should "give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy" by waiting until the next president takes office.

Amy Barrett’s nominating process will be one of the fastest since the 1970s. However, a majority of Americans want the seat to remain open only to be filled by the winner of the November presidential contest. Mitch McConnell has tried to thread this needle saying in this case both the Senate and White House are controlled by the same party as opposed to 2016 when he made a similar argument for his decision then.

What's the rush?

Republicans are in a hurry to confirm Judge Barrett so that she can weigh in on several issues that will be before the court in November. Most specifically when the Affordable Care Act comes before the court for oral arguments which could lead to it being overturned when the ruling comes next year, something Republicans have tried but failed to do through legislation. Barrett has expressed strong views against the law most especially about the 5-4 ruling in 2012 that upheld the individual mandate and saved the Affordable Care Act put to pen in an academic writing in 2017.

Republicans and President Trump also want her to be seated before the election so that she can decide on any election related cases that may come before the court. Trump has repeatedly stated that he is “counting” on the court to “look at the ballots,” as he has tried to sow doubt unfoundedly about the legitimacy of mail-in ballots. When asked on these issues during the confirmation hearings Judge Barrett has followed tradition and refused to talk about how she would decide.

Most importantly with Trump down in the poles there is a real chance that he may lose the election. More worryingly for Republicans is that his unpopularity is making several Senate races competitive when they shouldn’t be perhaps giving control of the Senate to the Democrats in 2021.

What is at stake?

Beyond the Affordable Care Act, Democrats fret that with such a conservative majority, that will last for perhaps a generation, will put abortion rights at risk as Roe v. Wade is progressively whittled down if not outright overturned. As she declared in the hearings, she doesn’t consider Roe v. Wade a “super-precedent,” meaning that it isn’t so established as to not be overturned. Democrats and commentators on the left have pointed to an advertisement she signed in 2006 calling for Roe v. Wade and its “barbaric legacy” to be overturned.

Other issues of concern that Democrats have raised are about LGBT rights, gun control, corporate regulations, and worker’s rights. She has compared her approach to handling cases to that of her mentor Justice Antonin Scalia, who was one of the most conservative Justices when he was on the bench.

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