The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to advance Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate floor despite a decision by Senate Democrats to boycott the vote.
The Republican-controlled committee voted 12–0 to recommend Barrett for a full Senate vote. No Democrats were present.
“That was their choice. It will be my choice to vote the nominee out of committee,” the committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Thursday morning.
“We are not going to allow them to take over the committee. They made a choice not to participate.”
Senate Democrats on Wednesday said that they would be boycotting the committee’s vote on Barrett. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic members on the committee said in a statement that they “will not grant … any further legitimacy” to Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation.
Republican’s push to confirm Barrett to the top court comes weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election, drawing criticism from their Democratic colleagues who argue that whoever wins the election should be given the opportunity to select the nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Democrats have also taken issue over holding the proceedings during the pandemic and the Republicans’ tight schedule.
“This has been a sham process from the beginning,” Schumer and other Democrats said in their Wednesday statement, accusing Republicans of “rushing to confirm a Supreme Court Justice,” to “take away health care from millions.”
“We will not grant this process any further legitimacy by participating in a committee markup of this nomination just twelve days before the culmination of an election that is already underway,” Schumer said.
Despite the Democrats’ announcement, Graham said on Wednesday that he will be holding a vote regardless of whether Democratic senators come, breaking longstanding committee rules.
Judiciary Committee rules stipulate that 12 members have to be present to bring a matter to a floor vote, and that two people from the minority party need to be present “for the purpose of transacting business.” Republicans can meet the first requirement on their own if every Republican senator is present. However, the latter rule would require the presence of at least two Democrats.
The rules also state that no nomination can be reported “unless a majority of the Committee is actually present at the time such action is taken and a majority of those present support the action taken.”
“Judge Barrett deserves a vote and she will receive a vote. Judge Barrett deserves to be reported out of committee and she will be reported out of committee. Judge Barrett deserves to be on the Supreme Court and she will be confirmed,” Graham said in a statement.
Instead of attending the markup, Senate Democrats said they will hold two press conferences.
The full Senate is expected to begin considering Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 23 with a final vote scheduled for Oct. 26. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that he has the votes to confirm the judge and will “stay on it until we [are] finished.”
The only GOP senators who have said they would not vote in favor of Barrett are Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). No Senate Democrat is expected to vote to confirm Barrett to the top court.
The majority leader praised Barrett on Oct. 16 saying that the judge had “exhibited every bit of the intellectual brilliance, legal expertise, and open-minded judicial temperament that we need on the Supreme Court.”
The committee’s vote comes at the heel of four days of hearings where senators questioned Barrett and examined her qualifications and record. Members of the committee grilled her on a range of issues that included abortion, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), voting rights, climate change, and LGBTQ rights, among other social issues. Barrett largely refused to express her personal views by invoking precedents and rules governing judicial conduct.
Senate Democrats spent a vast amount of time during the hearing presenting Barrett as a threat to America’s healthcare. They were unified in attempting to build a case that Barrett wouldn’t hesitate to overturn the ACA, also known as Obamacare, in an upcoming Supreme Court case. Barrett could be confirmed in time to join the court to hear that case, which is scheduled for oral arguments on Nov. 10.
However, Barrett has repeatedly expressed during the hearings that she has no animus or hostility toward the ACA.
Following Barrett’s nomination, the judge became targeted in several lengthy exposes by the media, which aims to cast her religious views in a negative light. Some reports have targeted Barrett’s membership with the People of Praise, a Christian community organization. Meanwhile, a recent Associated Press report focused on Barrett’s time serving on a board for private Christian schools with “anti-gay” policies.
These attempts to smear Barrett come against a backdrop where the then-professor fielded multiple questions about her Catholic faith from senators during her 2017 confirmation hearing for her nomination to the 7th Circuit Court.
The stories have prompted Republican lawmakers to denounce the “ongoing attacks” on her faith as “a disgrace.”
“These euphemisms fool no one. United States senators are suggesting that Judge Barrett is too Christian or the wrong kind of Christian to be a good Judge,” McConnell said earlier this month.
“Every Supreme Court Justice in history has possessed personal views. Judges have a job to do and they swear to do it impartially. It is the definition of discrimination to assert that Justice Barrett’s particular faith makes her uniquely unqualified for this promotion,” he added.
Mimi Nguyen-Ly and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.