Senate GOP set to vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick before election
Senate Republicans are preparing a speedy confirmation process for Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s third Supreme Court pick, setting up a final vote before the election.
The timeline will keep an explosive fight over the country’s top court at the forefront of the final 38 days before Nov. 3, where both control of Congress and the White House are up for grabs.
Trump formally named Barrett as his pick during a televised White House event setting the wheels of the Senate GOP confirmation process in motion.
Barrett — who like all Supreme Court nominees will need to fill out a committee questionnaire and undergo an FBI background check — is set to start meeting with senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as soon as Tuesday.
McConnell, on Saturday, vowed that Barrett will get a vote on the Senate floor in the “weeks ahead.”
“The Court, the Senate, and the American people — not to mention the nominee and her family — deserve a fair process that is focused on Judge Barrett’s qualifications. I hope all 100 Senators will treat this serious process with the dignity and respect it should command,” McConnell said in a statement.
Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee will start in just over two weeks on Oct. 12, three people familiar with the schedule confirmed to The Hill. Graham confirmed the schedule during an interview with Fox News on Saturday night, with the hearings expected to last three to four days.
Graham is expected to formally announce the schedule during an interview on Fox News on Saturday night.
McConnell did not explicitly name a date for a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor, but has said he would base the timing off of Graham’s Judiciary schedule. With the hearing taking place the week of the 12th, that would set up a final vote on the Senate floor during the week of Oct. 26.
Graham, during his Fox News interview, indicated that he could put Barrett’s nomination on the committee business agenda on Thursday, Oct. 15. Because Democrats are able to delay the nomination for a week that would likely set up a committee vote for Thursday, Oct. 22.
“We’ll start on the 12th, we’ll have four days of hearings and then we’ll hold over the nomination for a week … and hopefully we’ll come to the floor around the 26th,” Graham said.
The roughly two-week turnaround time between Trump’s announcement and the start of the hearing is a significantly faster timeline than the confirmations of Justices Neil Gorsuch or Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s first two Supreme Court nominees.
Trump announced that he would nominate Gorsuch on January 31, 2017, and his Judiciary Committee hearing started on March 20. Trump made his announcement about Kavanaugh on July 9 and his first Judiciary Committee hearing started on Sept. 4.
But Graham vowed that he would schedule the hearing early enough to allow for a Senate vote before Nov. 3 —q time frame pushed by Trump and a growing number of GOP senators.
“I have every confidence she will be confirmed before Election Day,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said on Saturday.
Only two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — said a nominee should not get a vote before the election, after Republicans refused to give Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, a hearing or a vote.
An aide for Collins told The Hill that she would be willing to meet with the nominee if Barrett requests a meeting, even though she has said she will vote “no” on any pick that comes up before No. 3. Murkowski also said in a statement on Saturday that she would be willing to meet with the nominee.
Republicans view the Supreme Court as a boon in most battleground Senate races that could help drive voter turnout.
Waiting until after the election carries two risks: If Trump lost, it would force Republicans to decide if they would confirm a nominee for a lame-duck president. In addition, if Arizona Democratic Senate nominee Mark Kelly wins his election against Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), he could be sworn in as soon as Nov. 30, narrowing the GOP majority.
Republicans have defended the decision to hold a vote on Trump’s nominee, even after blocking Garland, arguing that the key differences is that in 2020, unlike in 2016, both the Senate and the White House are held by the same party.
If Barrett is confirmed, it will be the closest to a presidential election that a Supreme Court nominee has been given the green light by the Senate. Senate staff disclosed to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that there did not appear to be a precedent for confirming a Supreme Court nominee between July and the election.
Democrats went on the offense against Barrett on Saturday night, warning that she would be the “deciding vote” on the Supreme Court striking down the Affordable Care Act and they ripped Republicans for agreeing to move on her nomination despite the looming election and their 2016 stance.
But with only a simple majority, Democrats are powerless to stop Barrett’s nomination on their own.
“President Trump and Leader McConnell are doing what no Senate has done before: shamelessly rushing to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat less than 40 days before a presidential election. Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish was that she not be replaced until a new president is installed. Republicans are poised to not only ignore her wishes, but to replace her with someone who could tear down everything that she built. This reprehensible power grab is a cynical attack on the legitimacy of the Court,” Schumer said in a statement.
Two Democrats on the Judiciary Committee—Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)—have said they will not meet with Barrett.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, argued that a nominee should not be taken up until after the presidential inauguration in January. She did not address in her statement if she will meet with Barrett if Trump’s pick requests a meeting.
“Judge Amy Coney Barrett clearly passes the president’s conservative litmus tests or he wouldn’t have nominated her. Judge Barrett’s record shows she would push the Supreme Court further to the right, putting many rights and protections that the American people have fought for and deeply cherish at risk,” she said.
Updated 9:44 p.m.
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