GOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation

Republicans cleared a key hurdle Sunday for Judge Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettAnti-abortion movement eyes its holy grail Abortion rights face most difficult test yet at Supreme Court Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade MORE’s Supreme Court nomination, paving the way for her confirmation on Monday.

Senators voted 51-48 to begin winding down debate on Barrett’s nomination. GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTransit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - Infrastructure vote fails; partisan feud erupts over Jan. 6 panel Senate falling behind on infrastructure MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiWhy Biden's Interior Department isn't shutting down oil and gas Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE (Alaska) voted with Democrats against moving forward.

A final vote to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court is expected to take place by Monday evening, roughly a month after President TrumpDonald TrumpRonny Jackson, former White House doctor, predicts Biden will resign McCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel MORE announced his intention to nominate her to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgAnti-abortion movement eyes its holy grail Abortion rights face most difficult test yet at Supreme Court Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade MORE.

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While Sunday’s vote is only a procedural step, it underscores that Republicans have the votes to place Barrett on the Supreme Court just days before the Nov. 3 election. The timetable will set a new record for how close to a presidential election a nominee has been confirmed to the country’s highest court.

The Supreme Court fires up the GOP base, handing Republicans a victory to tout as they try to shore up support in the final days before the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa House Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines MORE (R-Ky.), in particular, has put a premium on confirming Trump’s judicial nominees, arguing it's the best thing the party can do to have a long-term impact on the direction of the country.

"I think the voters are very much paying attention," said Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia next week Here's evidence the Senate confirmation process is broken MORE (R-Texas) on Sunday. "I think defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is incredibly important, possibly the most important issue in the election."

The push to confirm Barrett comes four years after Republicans refused to give Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandHas Trump beaten the system? Biden administration moves to withdraw death penalty requests in seven cases Federal gun trafficking strike forces launched in five cities MORE, then-President Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, a hearing or a vote in 2016. Republicans argue that the political shift from 2016, when a Democrat was in the White House, to 2020, when Republicans control both the Senate and the presidency, is a key distinction in line with precedent.

Democrats, however, fumed as Republicans quickly made it clear they would rally behind McConnell’s pledge to give whomever Trump nominated to succeed Ginsburg a vote. Similar to 2016, when McConnell waited only hours to announce the Senate would not take up a successor for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the GOP leader quickly made it clear after Ginsburg’s death that he would bring up Trump’s nominee.

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“This SCOTUS nomination process was illegitimate from Day 1. Instead of allowing the American people to finish voting, we had the Senate GOP saying they would confirm the nominee before she was even named. It’s all a sham,” Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyBipartisan congressional commission urges IOC to postpone, relocate Beijing Games Lawmakers urge Biden to make 'bold decisions' in nuclear review This week: Senate faces infrastructure squeeze MORE (D-Ore.) tweeted on Sunday.

Democrats have unsuccessfully tried dozens of times over the past week to delay Barrett’s nomination, including with attempts to adjourn the Senate until Nov. 9 or take up and begin debates on long-stalled legislative priorities. In Saturday’s hours-long session alone, they tried to take up roughly two dozen bills; each maneuver was blocked by Republicans.

Republicans expect Democrats to keep the Senate in session throughout Sunday night to give speeches about Barrett’s nomination before the final vote on Monday.

But Democrats have acknowledged that, absent the help of four GOP senators, they are powerless to prevent Republicans from placing Barrett on the court just days before the election and in time to take part in the Nov. 10 case that could determine the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Collins, who is in a tough reelection bid, is the only Republican expected to vote against Barrett on Monday. Collins said she was voting against Barrett because she does not believe Republicans should move her nomination before the election, after refusing to take up Garland in 2016. 

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

Democrats have argued that the reason Republicans are moving quickly to get Barrett on the court is so she can hear the health care case and so she can hear any election-related cases if the outcome of Nov. 3 ends up before the Supreme Court. Trump has indicated that he wants the Supreme Court to strike down ObamaCare and that he believes nine justices are needed in case the election is contested.

Barrett, during her days-long confirmation hearing, largely sidestepped weighing in on the presidential election and declined to say if she would recuse herself from election-related cases, if she thought a president should commit to a peaceful transition of power or if a president could unilaterally delay the election.

Despite the high stakes of confirming Barrett, who will lock in a 6-3 conservative majority on the court, and the injection of election-year drama, there have been no eleventh-hour surprises that threatened to derail GOP support for Trump's nominee. It’s a turnaround from 2018, when decades-old sexual assault allegations against then-nominee Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law On The Money: Yellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' | Frustration builds as infrastructure talks drag MORE injected last-minute chaos into the Senate’s debate.

Barrett also got a surprise boost when Murkowski announced that she would ultimately support Barrett during Monday’s confirmation vote, despite her objections to the decision to hold a vote before the election.

"While I oppose the process that has led us to this point, I do not hold it against her as an individual who has navigated the gauntlet with grace, skill and humility,” Murkowski said on Saturday. “I will vote no on the procedural votes ahead of us but yes to confirm Judge Barrett when the question before us is her qualification to be an associate justice.”

Updated at 4:23 p.m.