Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as a United States Supreme Court Justice on Monday night, at a ceremony held at the south lawn of the White House. Justice Clarence Thomas administered the constitutional oath, and Chief Justice John Roberts will administer her judicial oath on Tuesday. Barrett will be replacing the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
The Senate confirmed Barrett’s confirmation in a 52-48 vote, which was unanimously opposed by all the Senate’s Democrats. The court now has a 5-4 conservative majority.
There were immediate calls from the Democratic party’s influential progressives to expand the Supreme Court, assuming of course Joe Biden wins the presidency.
Barrett’s appointment was a lightning rod for Democrats, due to her politically conservative viewpoint, her religious (Catholic) beliefs and the appointment’s proximity to the 2020 elections, particularly after the Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in the 2016 election year, after (conservative) Justice Antonin Scalia died. After the elections, President Trump nominated and confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Expand the court. https://t.co/hYC5OCeKQq
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 27, 2020
For his part, Biden has refused to directly answer the question as to whether he would expand the court to pack it with liberal judges. But just hours before Barrett was sworn in, Biden said he would consider rotating out some Supreme Court judges to lower courts, and is asking for recommendations from constitutional scholars and would set up a commission to recommend how to reform the court system, according to a Fox News report.
Historically, there have been 29 Supreme Court vacancies during an election year, not including Ginsburg’s seat. In most of those cases, the Senate was controlled by the same party as the President.
But, in the 10 times a president nominated a justice when the opposition party controlled the Senate, only two of those nominees were confirmed. In six of those nomination attempts it was an election year, according to an analysis by Fred Lucas in The Daily Signal.
A week away from elections, this Supreme Court appointment was a major victory for both President Trumps and for Senate Republicans, both of whom might be voted out of control of their respective seats come Tuesday’s elections.
After being sworn in, Barrett made some brief remarks regarding her view of the role she has been given. “It is the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences. In fact, it would be a dereliction of duty for her to put policy goals aside. By contrast, it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences. It would be a dereliction of duty for her to give into them. Federal judges don’t stand for election. Thus, they have no basis for claiming that their preferences reflect those of the people, ” she said. As well as, “A judge declares independence not only from Congress and the president, but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her.”
Barrett is a constitutional originalist, which means she believes the constitution should be interpreted as it was understood at the time it was ratified, as she explains, “In English that means that I interpret the Constitution as a law, and that I interpret its text as text, and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn’t change over time and it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.”
That view is similar to that of Barrett’s mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Clarence Thomas is also an originalist.