Senate Republicans succeeded Thursday in winning Judiciary Committee approval for the confirmation of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett for a seat on the Supreme Court, setting the stage for a vote expected in the full Senate next week that will make her a high court justice.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is rushing Barrett’s confirmation through the Senate with only Republican support as quickly as humanly possible. His goal is obvious: getting Barrett onto the Supreme Court just in time for the Nov. 3 election.
Moving full speed ahead, McConnell has even prioritized the Supreme Court confirmation over passing desperately needed legislation to provide economic relief for millions of unemployed Americans, struggling families, businesses, schools, and local and state governments devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
#VOTEPROCHOICE CEO HEIDI SIECK: AMY CONEY BARRETT DOES NOT BELONG ON THE SUPREME COURT – HERE’S WHY
Before we give McConnell and his GOP colleagues a trophy for the fastest Supreme Court justice confirmation in American history, let’s remember that Thursday’s vote is another case of window dressing for what has been a foregone conclusion.
After the sad and untimely death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18, the Republican-controlled Senate and White House had no intention of allowing the Senate to function as intended by our founders — as a place of great compromise, civility and decorum to give advice and consent on a replacement justice.
Instead, we are witnessing a disgraceful triad of a broken Senate, a mismanaged White House, and an overzealous conservative movement determined to fill federal judicial vacancies with far-right ideologues — including some unqualified jurists.
These right-wing extremist judges are willing to overturn American judicial precedents and fundamentally change our long legacy of minority rights and civil rights expansion.
Since the last year of President Barack Obama’s term in the White House, the American people have been told by McConnell, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and other Republicans that it is improper for a president to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year. Let the American voters pick a president and that president could then pick a Supreme Court justice, McConnell and his allies solemnly told us.
This unprecedented rule invented by McConnell was used by Republicans to block President Obama from appointing U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court almost eight months before the 2016 presidential election.
But McConnell recently altered the rule he concocted to say it only applies when the president is a member of one political party and the Senate is controlled by the other party. How convenient.
So while it was too late in March 2016 for the Senate to confirm Garland to the Supreme Court, there’s nothing wrong with the Senate confirming Barrett in October this year — even though millions of Americans have already voted, McConnell tells us with a straight face.
Senate Republicans are engaging in hypocrisy of the highest order. They are making clear that they don’t care about democracy, but only care about exercising power to reshape the Supreme Court and lower courts to support far-right causes.
Millions of American who are casting ballots in the election now already underway want to ensure clean air and water for their families, equitable rights for the LGBTQ community, fairness and justice for people of color, and access to high-quality reproductive health care for women.
Senate Republicans and President Trump don’t care.
Many voters are also looking for an end to blatant and heinous voter suppression tactics in Georgia, Texas, Florida and a host of other states. Regrettably, their hopes of change can and likely will be hindered by Amy Coney Barrett’s originalist judicial doctrine once she gets a seat on the Supreme Court.
Senate Republicans and President Trump don’t care.
With COVID-19 on the front of so many voters’ minds, the GOP’s triumph in this Supreme Court nomination battle could also be the final blow to the popular Affordable Care Act and the health care access it provides for millions of Americans, including those suffering from pre-existing conditions.
Before you chastise me for jumping to conclusions on Barrett, I realize that no one knows for certain how she would rule on many of the consequential cases before the high court. Her Senate confirmation hearing increased that level of uncertainty.
The one thing we know is that Judge Barrett — who currently serves on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — believes that the Constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding “at the time it was adopted.”
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Barrett stands by a doctrine based on what reasonable citizens in 1787 would understand as the text’s ordinary meaning. For context, in 1787 African American were held in slavery and were considered property. Women had no right to vote and very few other rights that they have today. LGBTQ people were considered deviants without rights as well. And climate change, degradation of our environment, and many other major issues facing us today were of no concern to Americans.
Much as conservatives would like, we can’t turn back the clock 233 years.
It’s unfortunate that Republicans have elevated ideology to become the major consideration in judicial appointments. It’s unfortunate that when Barrett gets on the Supreme Court, as now seems inevitable, she will create a 6-3 conservative majority that wants to drag America backward instead of moving us forward.
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If we are genuinely striving to make the United States a more fair and just country, we must acknowledge the importance of expanding the American Dream to those yearning for equity and equality. Most importantly, we must prioritize minorities’ rights and the court’s role in upholding them.
While we can’t stop soon-to-be Justice Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court, we can vote as we have never voted before. When we do so, we should remember which Republican senators lied to us. More importantly, we should vote with the courts at the forefront of our minds, understanding that their impact profoundly affects our lives, communitues and country.
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