Crime & Justice

Dems abstain as Senate panel endorses Trump’s Supreme Court pick

Washington, Oct 22 (efe-epa).- The Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee brushed aside Democrats’ objections Thursday to endorse President Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill the lifetime US Supreme Court seat held until last month by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

All 12 GOP members voted “yes,” while the 10 Democrats on the panel abstained after failing to deny a quorum.

Democrats had threatened to boycott the session, contending that committee rules require the presence of at least two minority members to conduct business, but the chairman, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said that he would “move forward” regardless.

Following the vote, Graham called it “a groundbreaking, historic moment.”

The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said Barrett’s confirmation will have “dire consequences for the nation, for the Supreme Court and our entire country for generations to come.”

The elevation to the court of Barrett, a conservative and a devout Catholic, has the potential to create a durable 6-3 majority for the right.

Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the confirmation vote for Oct. 26, eight days before the presidential election pitting Trump against Democrat Joe Biden.

Republicans hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats and need only 51 votes to confirm Barrett, a 48-year-old appeals court judge.

So far, only one GOP senator, Susan Collins of Maine, has declared an intention to vote against the nominee based on the principle that Ginsburg’s successor should be chosen by the winner of the presidential contest.

Republicans could afford as many as three defections, as Vice President Mike Pence would be available to cast the 51st vote if needed.

Democrats view the entire process as illegitimate, pointing to the events of 2016, when McConnell led the Republicans in refusing to even consider then-President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

McConnell insisted then that choosing Scalia’s replacement should be left to the winner of that year’s presidential contest between and Hillary Clinton.

Responding to Democrats’ accusations of hypocrisy, the Kentucky lawmaker says that the circumstances are different from 2016 because the same party now controls both the White House and the Senate.

Trump has said that he wants to fill the seat on the Supreme Court as quickly as possible to prevent the Democrats from “stealing” the election.

The president also accuses Biden of planning to “pack” the high court – add seats to be filled by nominees of his choice – if he wins the election and Democrats gain control of both houses of Congress.

After weeks of deflecting questions about court-packing, Biden told CBS News that if he becomes president, he will appoint a bipartisan panel to weigh ideas for overhauling the federal judiciary.

“If elected what I will do is I’ll put together a national commission of – bipartisan commission of – scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative, and I will ask them to over 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack, the way in which it’s being handled,” Biden said in a clip from an interview to be aired in full next Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

“And it’s not about court packing. There’s a number of other things that constitutional scholars have debated and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make,” the former vice president said. “The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football.”

The US Constitution does not specify how many seats the Supreme Court should have and the number of justices fluctuated throughout the 19th century.

Last week’s two days of questioning before the committee produced no new insights into how Barrett might rule on issues such as abortion or a disputed election.

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