GOP Ignores Senate Rules, Advances Amy Coney Barrett’s Nomination As Democrats Boycott

An up-or-down vote by the full Senate is expected on Monday.

Chairman Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.), speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee Executive Business meeting, including the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to serve as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, in Washington, D.C., U.S., October 22, 2020. | Reuters
Chairman Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.), speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee Executive Business meeting, including the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to serve as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, in Washington, D.C., U.S., October 22, 2020. | Reuters

In a violation of committee rules, Senate Judiciary Republicans have voted to advance the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, even though Democrats say they denied the committee a quorum by boycotting the vote. 

Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham defended the move on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, saying, “Under the committee rules, you need two members of the minority to conduct business, but they're intentionally denying us that participation. They're boycotting the committee. So what I will do as chairman, there will be a majority of the committee present. We will waive that rule. We will report Judge Barrett out. She will go to the floor.” 

All ten Democrats on the committee, including vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, boycotted the vote in protest of the GOP moving President Trump’s SCOTUS nominee through weeks after a seat on the Court opened up — which has never been done before, in the midst of a presidential election. Barrett was announced on September 28  as the president’s nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on September 17.

There are some remaining procedural votes before the final floor vote, but they are seen as a formality. An up-or-down vote by the full Senate is expected on Monday.

In their empty seats, Democrats left portraits of people who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act. A forthcoming SCOTUS case in November could threaten the ACA, and Democrats have expressed concern that a potential Barrett seat — cementing a 6-3 conservative majority — could jeopardize millions of Americans’ health care coverage during a pandemic.

Posters sit in the seats of Democratic Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee as they boycott the committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett to serve as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States during a Senate Judiciary Committee Executive Business meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., October 22, 2020. | Reuters

With the GOP controlling the chamber, Democrats have no way of stopping Barrett's confirmation on their own. At least four Republican senators would have to side with the Democrats to block Barrett’s confirmation; so far, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) have said they would oppose the nomination. If they follow through on that and two more Republicans were to join them, they could stop the vote via Senate procedure or by outright voting against the nomination.

In her hearings last week, Barrett frequently evaded questions and refused to give a straight answer on a variety of pressing topics. She declined to say if it's legal for armed civilians to intimidate voters at the polls (it's not), if presidents should commit to a peaceful transfer of power, if Roe v. Wade was “wrongly decided,” or if LGBTQ+ Americans have a constitutional right to marry. Senate Democrats called the process “a sham” and the gathering amid the pandemic “reckless,” and reiterated that the rushed process “is not normal.”

Opponents criticize the move to confirm Barrett in the midst of a presidential election in which more than 45 million Americans have already cast their votes. Sens. Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and other GOP senators have been criticized for their hypocrisy while filling this seat, as McConnell famously blocked hearings on Pres. Obama’s SCOTUS pick, Merrick Garland, for 10 months in 2016.

Allan Piper and Shelby Vaculin contributed to this report.