Amy Coney Barrett Confirmed to Supreme Court as Susan Collins is Lone Republican to Oppose

Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Senate Monday evening, filling the vacancy left by liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The vote was nearly entirely along party lines: Senator Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to dissent, voting with all 47 members of the Democratic Caucus against the conservative Trump nominee over concerns of the proximity to the election.

The final vote was 52-48.

"Because this vote is occurring prior to the election, I will vote against the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett," Collins said in a statement over the weekend. "To be clear, my vote does not reflect any conclusion that I have reached about Judge Barrett's qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court."

Collins is one of Republicans' most endangered members this Fall, as election forecasters say Democrats are likely to flip the seat.

Although initially signaling she would oppose Barrett and voted against proceeding to the final vote during a procedural measure over the weekend, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) ultimately flipped her stance and backed the nominee. Still, Democrats were three votes short of preventing Barrett's confirmation. They would have needed a total of four Republicans to break rank.

Democrats have decried the breakneck pace as "illegitimate" and hypocritical in an election year. Republicans blocked Obama nominee Merrick Garland in 2016, citing the proximity to Election Day. Obama nominated Garland 237 days before the election. Barrett was nominated by Trump just 38 days before this year's contest.

Susan Collins
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) leaves the Senate floor on Capitol Hill on October 20 in Washington, DC. Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty

"Today, Monday, October 26, 2020, will go down as one of the darkest days in the 231-year history of the United States Senate," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a floor speech. "You may win this vote, and Amy Coney Barrett may become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court. But you will never—ever—get your credibility back."

Barrett's confirmation to the high court marks the closest to an election—eight days—that the upper chamber has ever placed a new justice on the Supreme Court and will cement a 6-3 conservative slant for likely years to come. Barrett is the third Trump nominee to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

It has been a core focus of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since Trump took office to confirm as many of the president's conservative lower court nominees as possible.

The entire confirmation process, from Barrett's nomination to the Senate's Monday vote, took just 30 days, marking a major win for Senate Republicans and the president ahead of the Nov. 3 election. The typical Supreme Court confirmation takes an average of 71 days from start to finish.

Republicans have justified their change in position from 2016 by highlighting that the GOP now controls both the White House and the Senate. The same was not the case for Garland under Obama.

"The reason we were able to make the decision we did in 2016 is because we had become the majority in 2014," McConnell said on the floor. "The reason we were able to do what we did in 2016, 2018 and 2020," the Kentucky Republican added, referring to the hundreds of Trump's judicial nominees that they've confirmed, "is because we had the majority."

Amy Coney Barrett
Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on October 14 in Washington, DC. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds-Pool/Getty

Sen. Collins was dissatisfied with Republicans' argument for supporting Barrett but blocking Garland, as was apparent with her opposition to Barrett.

"What I have concentrated on is being fair and consistent," Collins added in her statement, "and I do not think it is fair nor consistent to have a Senate confirmation vote prior to the election."

Democrats have used Barrett's speedy confirmation as a rallying cry as voters head to the polls. They have painted Barrett as someone who could single-handedly lead to Roe v. Wade being overturned or the Affordable Care Act's demise, potentially jeopardizing health insurance for some 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.

The Supreme Court will hear a case on Nov. 10—seven days after the election—that seeks to strike down the Obama-era health care law. The lawsuit was brought by state Republican attorneys general and is backed by the Trump administration.

The White House will host a swearing-in ceremony for Barrett Monday night, despite a prior "super-spreader" event at the White House with Barrett and a current coronavirus outbreak among staffers of Vice President Mike Pence. Pence did not preside over the confirmation vote, as he was previously scheduled to do.

Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the Judicial Oath to Barrett on Tuesday during a private ceremony, a Supreme Court spokesperson said. She will then be able to immediately begin work for the court.