By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans pledged to go ahead with a vote on Thursday on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, despite Judiciary Committee Democrats pledging to boycott a proceeding that they called “a sham.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said in a statement on Wednesday that “Judge Barrett deserves a vote and she will receive a vote.”
Just hours earlier, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Judiciary Committee Democrats said they would not show up for the vote. They have been urging Republicans to await the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election before advancing a nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the September death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Amidst a global pandemic and ongoing election, Republicans are rushing to confirm a Supreme Court Justice to take away health care from millions and execute the extreme and deeply unpopular agenda that they’ve been unable to get through Congress,” the Democrats said.
“This has been a sham process from the beginning,” they said, noting that U.S. elections were only 12 days away and that early ballots already were being cast.
Graham, who is in a tough re-election campaign in South Carolina, countered, saying in his statement that Barrett “has a judicial disposition that should be the gold standard for all future nominees” to the high court.
All 12 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have indicated they will support Barrett, a favorite of Christian conservatives, while all 10 Democrats are opposed. Graham is thus thought to have enough votes to prevail.
Assuming the Judiciary Committee sends the nomination to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation as expected, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aims to hold a procedural vote on Barrett’s nomination on Sunday, which would limit debate so that a final vote to confirm her could occur on Monday.
Democrats have fiercely opposed Barrett, a federal appeals court judge whose confirmation by the Republican-led Senate would expand the top U.S. judicial body’s conservative majority to 6-3.
McConnell, who has made confirmation of Trump’s conservative judicial appointees a high priority, has been working to get Barrett confirmed to the lifetime post before Election Day, as the Republican president has requested. Republicans hold a 53-47 Senate majority.
Trump has said he believes the Supreme Court will decide the election’s outcome as he faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden, and has made clear he wants Barrett on the bench for any election-related cases.
No nominee to the Supreme Court has ever been confirmed by the Senate this close to a presidential election.
Democrats reiterated their anger that Senate Republicans moved forward with the nomination so near the election after refusing in 2016 to allow the chamber to act on a Supreme Court nomination by Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, because it was an election year.
“Now, Republicans have moved at breakneck speed to jam through this nominee, ignoring her troubling record and unprecedented evasions, and breaking longstanding committee rules to set tomorrow’s vote,” the Democrats said in their statement.
“Fearing a loss at the ballot box, Republicans are showing that they do not care about the rules or what the American people want, but are concerned only with raw political power,” the statement added.
Barrett frustrated Judiciary Committee Democrats during her confirmation hearing last week by sidestepping questions on abortion, presidential powers, climate change, voting rights, Obamacare and other issues.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)