Senate Democrats on Friday immediately moved to stall the inevitable confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, even forcing the chamber into a rare closed session.
Democrats are in the minority and lack the votes to block the confirmation, which is on track to conclude Monday, but they plan to use the process to show their base of liberal voters that they are doing all they can to slow it down and demonstrate their opposition to a process they believe should have been delayed until the next president is sworn into office in January.
“We are not going to have business as usual,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, announced on the floor Friday when the session gaveled in.
Schumer called for a closed-door session, which ended quickly. Republicans then produced the 51 votes needed to file cloture on Barrett’s nomination, setting up a procedural clock that will end with Barrett’s confirmation on Monday, which is in about 72 hours.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said senators did “nothing” in the closed-door session.
“It’s just theater so they can show their activist class they are fighting every step of the way,” Rubio said.
Democrats also believe Republicans should be obligated to postpone confirmation of a new justice until after the election since the GOP refused to take up President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016 after Scalia died.
Scalia died in February. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cited the proximity to the election. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, creating the opening Barrett is now destined to fill.
Democrats fumed at the double standard, although McConnell said he always intended to take up a nominee close to the election if the White House and Senate are aligned politically.
“Democrats will not lend an ounce of legitimacy to the process,” Schumer said.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, accused Democrats of degrading Senate norms over the years to move their own agenda and to block the GOP’s nominees. Democrats ended the judicial filibuster, and the GOP followed by eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
“Every new escalation, every new step, every new shattered precedent, every one of them, was initiated over there,” McConnell said, pointing to Democrats across the aisle. “And it all happened over the strenuous objections of Republicans, who tried to stop Democrats from trading away longtime norms for short-term political wins.”
McConnell urged the Senate to “get on with it, let’s do our job,” adding, “We will give this nominee the vote she deserves, no later than Monday.”
Democrats are under intense pressure from their liberal base to stop Barrett’s nomination, however implausible that is.
With no procedural avenues to stop it, Democrats can only slow it down and make a show of their discontent.
Schumer accused McConnell of “steering the Senate to one of its lowest moments in history” by taking up Barrett’s confirmation. “The damage it does to this chamber will be irrevocable.”
He also called McConnell’s accusations “absurd and outrageous … and a stain on this body.”
The senator then called up a vote to “indefinitely postpone the Barrett nomination,” which had no chance of passing.
Democrats will be in session Sunday to vote to proceed to the Barrett nomination, followed by a final confirmation vote Monday.