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Powerless to stop it, congressional Democrats could only bemoan and criticize the narrow vote by Senate Republicans just a week before Election Day to install Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court.
Republicans voted to approve Donald Trump’s third right-wing nomination to the nation’s high court Monday evening on a vote of 52-48. All but one Republican voted in favor, while all Democrats voted against the nomination, which was completed just about a month after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away.
Democrats rued the influence Barrett will bring to the high court as part of a 6-3 right-wing supermajority. They worry that this new bloc could do everything from strike down a national right to abortion with Roe v Wade and Obama-era healthcare reform by striking down the Affordable Care Act in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Progressive Democratic Sen Mazie Hirono of Hawaii struck a defiant tone when it came to her turn for the voting roll.
Hirono, who tangled with Barrett as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during Barrett’s nomination hearings, didn’t answer with a traditional “No,” or “Nay,” but rather shouted out, clearly, “Hell no!”
Although conservatives choose to see Barrett as an “originalist” in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Sen Ed Markey (D-Mass) saw it another way.
“Originalism is racist. Originalism is sexist. Originalism is homophobic. For originalists like Judge Barrett, LGBT stands for ‘Let’s go back in time,’ a time when you couldn’t marry who you love, when you couldn’t serve in the military if you were trans, a time when rights were not extended to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or intersex individuals,” he said. “Originalism is just a fancy word for discrimination.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) complained how the Barrett nomination will bring shame to the Senate and hurt to the American people for decades to come.
“Generations yet unborn will suffer the consequences of this nomination, as the globe gets warmer, as workers continue to fall behind, as unlimited dark money floods our politics, as reactionary state legislatures curtail a woman’s right to choose, gerrymander districts and limit the rights of minorities to vote, my deepest, greatest, and most abiding sadness tonight is for the American people and what this nomination will mean for their lives, their freedoms, their fundamental rights,” said Schumer. “Monday, October 26th, 2020 — it will go down as one of the darkest days in the 231-year history of the United States Senate. I yield the floor.”
Even some Democrats not involved in the process spoke up against Barrett, including Rep Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
“I mean, this is really an illegitimate process truly that has exposed the hypocrisy of Republicans as they rush through this process and have forgone many of the traditions that they have set themselves,” Omar said. “And it’s leaving so many Americans really worried about what this would mean for them, what it would mean for women in regards to reproductive rights, what it would mean for immigrants like myself when it comes to our religious liberty, what it would mean for our brothers and sisters in the queer community, or the trans folks in our community when it comes to their rights to equality.
“We also know that there are so many people who are worried because they have pre-existing conditions. I mean, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, this is going to impact workers who’ve been fighting for their right to unionize in their workforce. And so it is a really important decision and one that I am glad my Democratic colleagues in the Senate are fighting really hard to oppose,” she added.
Ahead of the vote to approve the nomination, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) chose not magnanimity towards his colleagues on the other side, but a sort of backhanded taunt.
“You know, legitimacy is not the result of how they feel about it you know, you can’t win them all, and elections have consequences,” McConnell said. “And what this administration and this Republican Senate has done is exercise the power that was given to us by the American people in a manner that is entirely within the rules of the Senate and the Constitution of the United States.”
Those, however, are strong words for a Senate leader who, according to opinion polling, could be swept from power in a matter of days.
Should Joe Biden be elected president and Democrats take over the Senate, Biden has committed to name a special commission to study the thorny area of Supreme Court politics and nominations.
A united Democratic government could well press reforms which could easily dilute the influence of the newly ascendant right wing.
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