CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate on Monday voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court amid Democratic opposition regarding the timing of the vote in addition to Barrett’s past opinions on abortion and former President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Barrett, who has served on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals since November 2017, became the fifth female justice in the history of the Supreme Court with the Senate’s 52-48 vote. She succeeds Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted alongside most of her Republican colleagues in backing the nomination, while Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., opposed. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine voted against confirmation, citing her party’s refusal to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland ahead of the 2016 election.
“I have thoroughly reviewed Judge Barrett’s record, and I met with her face to face,” Capito told reporters Monday afternoon. “She is just an extraordinary individual. Very even-minded, fair-minded. She understands and respects the role of a Supreme Court justice.”
“We’re not in a judicial crisis. We still have eight judges sitting. Five of those judges are conservative judges. Three are moderate to progressive,” Manchin said.
Manchin was one of three Democrats to support Barrett’s previous appointment. He told reporters he did not doubt Barrett’s legal knowledge, but a lifetime appointment cannot be rushed in one month.
“I have concerns about her writings, and basically, that’s all we have to go by,” he said. “She hasn’t been in the legal profession as far as working in the legal profession as a lawyer or a judge all that long.”
Barrett’s experience includes serving as a clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals’ Washington, D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Barrett also taught at George Washington University and the University of Notre Dame’s law schools.
Senate Democrats have criticized Barrett’s previous writings against abortion and “Obamacare.” The Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the health care law on Nov. 10, a week after election day.
Eighteen states — including West Virginia — and the U.S. Department of Justice argue “Obamacare” is unconstitutional because Congress reduced the individual mandate to zero as part of the 2017 tax law.
Manchin said Senate Republicans pushed the confirmation to end the health care law and ensure favorable election results if the upcoming election goes before the Supreme Court.
“That’s the only two reasons I can give you of why they would rush this through, which is unprecedented in the history of the United States of America,” he said.
Barrett earlier this month told the Senate Judiciary Committee she will review each matter from a legal perspective. Capito defended Barrett, arguing people should not be worried about losing health insurance coverage or any rights because Barrett is a justice.
“To me, that’s a political scare tactic that I really think does a disservice to the process and really concerns a lot of people,” Capito said. “She’s going to consider each case that comes before her individually, impartially and in the context of precedent and the Constitution.”
Capito also defended the decision to move forward with the nomination, noting Republicans maintained control of the Senate in the 2018 election, unlike Democrats who lost the chamber in 2014.
“I’m very comfortable with the process because I think that it gives us an opportunity to respond to the 2018 and 2016 elections which kept the Republicans in charge of the Senate but also the president as well,” she said.
Paula Jean Swearengin, Capito’s opponent in this year’s Senate race, criticized the incumbent following the vote.
“My opponent Shelley Moore Capito opposed a SCOTUS appointment in 2016. Now she’s done a 180 and voted to pack the courts with partisan picks,” Swearengin said on Facebook.
“Our Supreme Court Justices are there to uphold and protect human rights. We’ve been waiting for a relief package for months and they are playing partisan politics. We’re in the fight of our lives. This madness needs to end. We’re done with hypocrisy!”
Capito last week spoke in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment limiting the number of Supreme Court justices to nine. Progressives are pushing for expanding the court if Democrats control the White House and Senate following the election.
Manchin said he opposes adding seats.
“There’s no way I believe in my heart of hearts that (Democratic presidential nominee) Joe Biden would ever believe that’s the right thing to do,” he told reporters. “All you do is just tit-for-tat, and you’re going to have back and forth. You erase people away or you put more people on every time we have a presidential election and you have a change of parties? That’s not going to work.”