WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate is expected on Monday to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, as the next justice to the Supreme Court, a move that will tilt the country’s highest court further to the right for years to come.
No nominee to the Supreme Court has ever been confirmed by the Senate this close to a presidential election, with more than 58 million ballots already cast ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3.
The rush to confirm Barrett, 48, has bitterly divided Democrats and Republicans, who are expected to split along party lines on the final vote. Trump has said repeatedly he wants her in place to vote on any election-related cases that go to the court.
With Republicans controlling the chamber 53-47 and no indication of an internal revolt against the conservative appeals court judge succeeding liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barrett looks almost certain to take up a lifetime appointment on the bench over universal Democratic opposition.
Several Republicans who previously expressed concerns about rushing the process, including Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, are expected to approve Barrett’s nomination.
Senate Democrats and some Republicans expressed unease at the possibility that Vice President Mike Pence, several of whose close aides have tested positive for COVID-19, might attend Monday’s vote.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Pence “reportedly intends to come” to the Senate chamber to preside over the final vote, and blasted him for being willing to put “the health of everyone who works in this building at risk.”
With Barrett confirmed, the Supreme Court will have a solid 6-3 conservative majority.
Barrett is expected to participate in a crucial hearing on Nov. 10, where Trump and his fellow Republicans will ask the court to strike down the Affordable Care Act. The 2010 healthcare law, popularly known as Obamacare, has helped millions of Americans obtain medical insurance and protected those with pre-existing conditions.
During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month, Barrett, a favorite of Christian conservatives, sidestepped questions on abortion, presidential powers, climate change, voting rights, Obamacare and other issues.
“It is my belief that Judge Barrett represents a threat to the very rights, including reproductive rights, rights of LGBT individuals, and voting rights, that Justice Ginsburg worked so hard to protect,” Senate Judiciary Committee senior Democrat Dianne Feinstein said on the Senate Floor on Sunday.
“For those reasons, I oppose her nomination.”
Barrett was nominated on Sept. 26 following Ginsburg’s death eight days earlier.
She has criticized previous rulings upholding Obamacare but said during her confirmation hearing she had no agenda to invalidate the measure.
Barrett has been a federal appeals court judge since 2017 and was previously a legal scholar at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
“We’re giving you a great new Supreme Court justice,” Trump told a campaign rally on Sunday.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Peter Cooney
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