The sprint by Senate Republicans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to a lifetime post on the U.S. Supreme Court began in earnest on Tuesday as the conservative judge met with senators at the U.S. Capitol, starting with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Barrett, who Trump on Saturday announced as his pick to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, stood silently and very still before the TV cameras - McConnell on one side, roughly six feet away, and Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials on the other, also about six feet away, none of them in masks.
(VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE):
“In Judge Amy Coney Barrett, we have someone of great character, of great intellect, who has a judicial philosophy that will uphold the Constitution of the United States.”
Pence added that he looked forward to (quote), “a vote in the near future in the Senate” on Barrett’s confirmation.
With Republicans controlling the Senate, she is expected to be confirmed, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority. She would be Trump’s third appointee to the Supreme Court.
Democrats are fiercely opposed to Barrett replacing Ginsburg, a champion of gender equality and other liberal causes.
They argue the court vacancy should be filled after the next president is chosen on Nov. 3, a view shared by a majority of Americans, according to recent national polls.
Trump, who recently declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, has said he thinks the election battle will end up being decided by the Supreme Court.
Democrats are likely to seek a pledge from Barrett that she would recuse herself if election-related issues do reach the court next month – something McConnell was asked about Tuesday by a reporter, and to which he, and Barrett, remained silent and stone-faced before all reporters were whisked out the door.
(VOICE OF REPORTER):
“Leader McConnell, if Judge Coney Barrett is confirmed should she recuse herself from any election-related cases?”
(VOICE OF CAPITOL BUILDING AIDE):
“Alright folks, thank you – let’s go.”
McConnell also did not respond to a question about whether he intends to confirm Barrett prior to the election, but Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham – who will lead her confirmation hearings - has said his committee will likely vote on her nomination on Oct. 22, setting up a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor by the end of the month.
Barrett’s other Tuesday meetings include Graham and fellow Republican Judiciary Committee members Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee and Mike Crapo.