WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to send the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the full Senate for a vote following marathon confirmation hearings earlier this month.
Barrett's nomination passed the committee phase with 12 yeas. Democratic committee members boycotted Thursday's vote.
Final approval by the Republican-controlled Senate is expected as early as Monday, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
With a 53-47 Republican majority, and just two GOP senators opposed, Barrett is on the way to a confirmation that will tip the balance of the court to a 6-3 conservative majority for years to come.
Barrett was President Donald Trump’s pick to fill the vacancy left behind by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18. Overall, her conservative views are largely at odds with the late Ginsburg, a liberal icon.
The Senate has been pushing for a quick vote before the Nov. 3 election and ahead of the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court is set to hear on Nov. 10.
Never before has a court nominee been voted on so close to a presidential election.
During Barrett’s confirmation hearings, many questions from Democrats on the committee centered on the Affordable Care Act, with fears that she would be a vote to undo the “Obamacare” law — which gives more than 20 million Americans health insurance coverage.
Barrett has presented herself as a judge with deeply held religious beliefs, but vowed to approach each case with an “open mind.” During questioning from senators on the committee, Barrett promised to bring no personal agenda to the high court.
She has remained neutral on many issues, asserting it's against judicial code to say whether she would overturn the Affordable Care Act or how she would vote on other politically fraught issues, including abortion.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the committee chairman, said prior to the vote that Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court is a signal to young conservative women who oppose abortion that there’s “a seat at the table for them.”
“She’s going to the court,” Graham said on Oct. 13. “This is the first time in American history that we’ve nominated a woman who’s unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology.”
Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on Oct. 14, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)
Senators also questioned Barrett’s views on racial equity and presidential power in a bid to determine how she would rule on cases if confirmed.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois probed whether her strict adherence to originalism means a president could not “unilaterally deny the right to vote” based on race, noting restrictions on mail-in ballots in several states before Nov. 3.
Barrett has said she is an "originalist" when it comes to interpreting the U.S. Constitution, which indicates that she believes that the meaning of law does not change over time. She agreed there are "many laws" that protect the right to vote, including the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, but stopped short of a blanket statement: "I really can't say anything more," Barrett said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked what Barrett thinks of Trump's view that he can pardon himself. Barrett said a president's ability to pardon himself has never been tested in court and the question calls for “legal analysis.”
She said, “It's not one that I can offer a view.”
During the confirmation hearings, Graham also asked Barrett about being compared to the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, even being dubbed by some as a “female Scalia.”
"I would say that Justice Scalia was obviously a mentor, and as I said when I accepted the president's nomination, that his philosophy is mine, too," Barrett answered. "He was a very eloquent defender of originalism."
"But I want to be careful to say that if I'm confirmed, you would not be getting Justice Scalia, you would be getting Justice Barrett. And that's so because originalists don't always agree," she continued.
Barrett told Graham that she can set aside her Catholic beliefs and has done that since her confirmation as an appeals court judge in 2017. She declined to say whether she would recuse herself from any cases involving the election between Trump and Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“Judges can’t just wake up one day and say I have an agenda — I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion — and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world,” Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Barrett added that it’s a violation of judicial independence to put a justice on the court as a means of obtaining a particular result and that she has not been asked by Trump or anyone else how she’d rule in possible upcoming cases.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.