Alaska Sen. Murkowski to support Barrett for Supreme Court

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, leaves the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Sept. 30 in Washington.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced Saturday she will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, giving crucial support to President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the conservative judge faces a final vote expected Monday.

The Alaska Republican had been a rare holdout on Barrett, decrying that her nomination had proceeded so close to a presidential election. Even though Barrett appears to have support for confirmation from Senate Republicans who hold the majority in the chamber, Murkowski's vote now gives Trump's nominee additional backing.

Murkowski announced her support for Barrett in a speech during Saturday's session. “While I oppose the process that has led us to this point, I do not hold it against her,” she said.

The Senate opened a rare weekend session Saturday as Republicans raced to put Barrett on the Supreme Court and seal a conservative majority before Election Day despite Democratic efforts to stall Trump's nominee.

Democrats are poised to mount more time-consuming procedural hurdles, but the party has no realistic chance of stopping Barrett's advance in the Republican-controlled chamber. Barrett, a federal appeals court judge, is expected to be confirmed Monday and quickly join the court.

A woman speaks from behind a desk.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies on the third day of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Oct. 14 in Washington.
Drew Angerer | Pool, AFP via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., noted the political rancor, but defended his handling of the process.

“Our recent debates have been heated, but curiously talk of Judge Barrett's actual credentials or qualifications are hardly featured,” McConnell said. He called her one of the most “impressive" nominees for public office "in a generation."

The fast-track confirmation process is like none other in U.S. history so close to a presidential election. Democrats call it a “sham” and say the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election should name the nominee to fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York warned Republicans the only way to remove the “stain” of their action would be to “withdraw the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett until after the election.”

With the nation experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases, Democrats were expected to force a series of votes throughout Saturday on coronavirus relief legislation, including the House-passed Heroes Act that would pump money into schools, hospitals and jobless benefits and provide other aid.

Majority Republicans were expected to turn aside the measures and keep Barrett's confirmation on track, which would lock a 6-3 conservative majority on the court for the foreseeable future. Senators planned to stay in session Saturday and Sunday.

Barrett, 48, presented herself in public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a neutral arbiter of cases on abortion, the Affordable Care Act and presidential power — issues soon confronting the court. At one point she suggested, “It's not the law of Amy.”

But Barrett's past writings against abortion and a ruling on the Obama-era health care law show a deeply conservative thinker.

Trump said this week he is hopeful the Supreme Court will undo the health law when the justices take up a challenge Nov. 10, the week after the election.

The fast-track confirmation process is like none other in U.S. history so close to a presidential election.

Schumer called it the “least legitimate process in the country's history" as he forced procedural steps.

But Republicans countered they were taking as much time on Barrett's nomination as the average for Supreme Court confirmation. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, dismissed the stall tactics as “frivolous.”

At the start of Trump's presidency, McConnell engineered a Senate rules change to allow confirmation by a majority of the 100 senators, rather than the 60-vote threshold traditionally needed to advance high court nominees over objections. With a 53-47 GOP majority, Barrett’s confirmation is almost certain.

Most Republicans are supporting Barrett's confirmation. Only Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has said she won't vote for a nominee so close to the presidential election.

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